MOSCOW – Israel does not intend to bomb Iran, Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday in the most explicit comments on the matter by a top minister of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to date.
Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Russia, Avigdor Lieberman also said that other countries in the Middle East and around the world should be concerned about Iran's nuclear program.
But he said those countries should not expect Israel to solve the problem for them.
"We do not intend to bomb Iran, and nobody will solve their problems with our hands," he told reporters. "We don't need that. Israel is a strong country, we can protect ourselves.
"But the world should understand that the Iran's entrance into the nuclear club would prompt a whole arms race, a crazy race of unconventional weaponry across the Mideast that is a threat to the entire world order, a challenge to the whole international community," he said. "So we do not want a global problem to be solved with our hands."
The comments appeared to be a slight softening from recent statements made by Netanyahu's government that have suggested Israel might be forced to take military action against Israel.
Netanyahu has repeatedly said Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, and has refused to rule out the use of force.
After his recent meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu said he and the U.S. president agreed Iran must not obtain nuclear weapons, and attempts to solve the problem through negotiations could not be unlimited in time.
Iran, whose president has expressed hatred of Israel, maintains its nuclear programs are only designed to provide electricity. But Israel, the United States and other nations fear the effort is aimed at acquiring nuclear weapons.
While in Moscow, Lieberman met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and others.