NEW YORK – Tumbling oil prices will force a weakened Iran to consider abandoning its nuclear ambitions, Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview with FOX News senior correspondent Eric Shawn.
"The minute a barrel of oil goes down to its real cost, the Iranians will have to make a choice either to provide bread and butter for their children or to provide enriched uranium for the prestige of their leaders," Peres told FOX News in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday.
"Until now they had enough money to do the two things; no more."
Oil prices have fallen 60 percent since reaching an all-time high of more than $145 a barrel in July, as the global financial crisis has weakened currencies and lowered energy consumption, causing energy prices to plummet in their wake.
Iran now stands at a vital crossroads, Peres says, with a struggling economy based on exporting its massive reserves of crude oil and natural gas. The country faces a growing budget deficit and has an official inflation rate of 28 percent.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged the destruction of Israel, and the U.S. and the United Nations have imposed stiff economic sanctions on Iran for supporting terrorism and pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Peres, considered the father of Israel's undeclared nuclear program, said the world would not be cowed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
"Look, we want to remain alive. The world does not belong to you and we have enough strength to call you to order," he said of Iran, which he called the world's lead financer of terror.
"We have nothing against their people — it's a small group of fanatic, ambitious leaders that think they are the lord in heaven, they have to right to kill, the right to wipe out a nation," said Peres, who is in New York for a "Culture of Peace" interfaith dialogue at the U.N. arranged by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
Peres praised the interfaith initiative as "a major U-turn in Arab life" and suggested that Sunni Saudi Arabia may find common ground with Israel in the face of Shiite Iran, which he accused of harboring "imperial ambitions" in the Middle East.
"They want to govern the Middle East religiously and they will throw away all the existing systems [and] regimes," he said, arguing that a solid international front against Iran could force the county to change.
"The Iranians are taking advantage of the fact that the world is divided," Peres said. "Once there is a unified policy vis a vis Iran, you will see Iran changing."