BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – If Iran develops nuclear capabilities it will start an arms race in the Middle East that would threaten the world, Israel's foreign minister said Thursday.
Avigdor Lieberman said at the start of his four-day trip to Argentina that "Iran is the biggest sponsor of world terror organizations such as Hamas, (Islamic) Jihad and Hezbollah."
"If Iran would achieve nuclear capacity, we'll see a crazy nuclear-armed race in our region that will be a threat not only to Israel but to the rest of the world," he told reporters.
Iran has insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the U.S. reject that.
Argentina is the second stage of a 10-day tour of four South American nations aimed at staunching Iran's growing influence in the region.
Lieberman also met with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana to discuss preparations for Israeli President Shimon Peres' visit in November, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.
Argentina is home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America. Argentine prosecutors say Iran and Hezbollah were behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85. Iran has denied involvement.
There was also another bomb attack in 1992 against the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people. None of the attacks have been solved.
During a Wednesday meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lieberman asked Latin America's biggest nation to use its influence to help halt Iran's nuclear program. Lieberman noted that Brazil has good ties both with Muslim countries and with Israel.
The Iranian representative in Bolivia, Masoud Edrisi, accused Israel of using Lieberman's trip to try to undermine Iran's relations with Latin American nations.
"Its objective is propaganda against the good relations that exist between Iran and Latin America," Edrisi told The Associated Press.
Israel sees Iran as a major strategic threat, fearing it is developing a nuclear weapon and noting its development of long-range ballistic missiles. Concerns have been sharpened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated references to the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israeli officials also have expressed concern over Iran's growing ties with leftist-led nations in Latin America. Iranian companies are building apartments, cars, tractors and bicycles in Venezuela and the two countries' leaders have exchanged visits. Iran has also opened new embassies in Bolivia and Nicaragua.