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. Israeli minister urges West to isolate Iran
JERUSALEM, Sept 24 (AFP) Sep 24, 2008
A hawkish member of Israel's security cabinet on Wednesday urged the West to isolate Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"It should be enough to isolate Iran, but by that I mean an absolutely total embargo," said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, also a member of the parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.

"I am saddened to see Europe is playing it both ways. About 1,200 companies work day and night with Iran. The free world should be concerned and must choose," the Labour minister told a conference in Jerusalem.

He also urged Arab countries to speak out, saying: "Israel should be ready for any possibility but Israel would not be the first victim of Iran with a nuclear weapon."

"The Sunni countries of the region -- Jordan, the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia -- would be the first countries, and I'm very sorry that these countries that I admire very much are so quiet," he said.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, ridiculed Iran's bid to get a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

"It is absurd that a state unparalleled in threatening the security of its neighbours and calling for the destruction of another state should be a member of a body whose goal is to further global security," she said.

Israel has long considered Iran its main strategic threat because of its accelerating nuclear programme and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's frequent predictions of the demise of the Jewish state.

Tehran insists its nuclear drive is entirely peaceful but has been threatened with more international sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment work.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East, with around 200 warheads, but has a policy of neither confirming nor denying its arsenal.

It has has refused to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or allow international surveillance of its nuclear plant in Dimona, in the southern Negev desert.

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