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No Iran Strike Planned By Israel, Medvedev Says

JIM HEINTZ   09/20/09 02:22 PM ET   AP

Netanyahu

MOSCOW — Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says Israeli officials have assured him that they are not planning a military strike on Iran.

In an interview with CNN television broadcast Sunday, Medvedev also confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit to Moscow this month that included a meeting with the Russian president.

In a transcript of the interview released by the Kremlin, Medvedev hedges on the question of whether Russia would support Iran if it were attacked by Israel.

Although Russia has no defense agreement with Iran "this does not mean we would like to be or will be indifferent to such an occurrence. This is the worst thing that can be imagined," Medvedev said of a potential Israeli strike.

"What would happen after that? Humanitarian disaster, a vast number of refugees, Iran's wish to take revenge – and not only upon Israel, to be honest, but upon other countries as well."

"But my Israeli colleagues told me they were not planning to act in this way, and I trust them," Medvedev said.

It was not clear whether those referred to included Netanyahu. In a CNN clip played on Israeli TV and dubbed in English, Medvedev refers to Israeli President Shimon Peres as the source of the assurances.

"In one hour I will talk with the president of Israel, Mr. Peres, who when recently visiting me he told me a very important thing to all of us. He said Israel doesn't intend to deliver any strike against Iran. He said, 'We are a a peaceful country.'"

Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment Sunday on whether the Israeli premier had given any such assurance to Medvedev, or to confirm that Netanyahu ever made the Moscow trip. Medvedev gave the first confirmation from the Russian side that the meeting with Netanyahu had taken place.

Netanyahu was absent from public view in Israel for most of the day on Sept. 7. His office said he had visited a secret security facility, but there was widespread speculation that he had gone to Russia – either to pressure Moscow not to deliver S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran or to inform the Kremlin of attack plans.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu came to Moscow. He did this under a closed regime, this was his decision. I don't understand what this was connected with, but sometimes our partners decide it this way," Medvedev said. He did not give details of the meeting.

Russia signed a contract two years ago to sell S-300s to Iran, a move that disturbs Israel because the missiles would substantially boost Iran's defenses. However, no deliveries have been made public.

In the interview, Medvedev acknowledged Israel's concerns but said that "any supplies of any weapons, especially defensive weapons, cannot increase tension; on the contrary, they should ease it."

Russia has cultivated close cooperation with Iran, including building the Bushehr nuclear power plant that critics say is a key element of Iranian attempts to develop nuclear weapons. But Russia has shown irritation with Iran's failure to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency as it seeks to determine if Iran is pursuing nuclear arms.

Although Russia – which has veto power in the United Nations Security Council – so far has resisted additional sanctions on Iran, Medvedev admonished Tehran in the interview.

"Iran must cooperate with the IAEA, this is absolutely obvious, if it wishes to develop its nuclear dimension, its nuclear energy program. This is a duty and not a matter of choice," he said.

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Filed by Rachel Weiner  |