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WAR REPORT
Israel talks of military option as Kissinger warns over Iran
by Staff Writers
Davos, Switzerland (AFP) Jan 24, 2013


Kerry hints at new idea for Middle East peace
Washington (AFP) Jan 24, 2013 - Senator John Kerry hinted Thursday he has a plan up his sleeve to rekindle the long moribund Middle East peace talks, but warned he was worried the door for a "two-state solution" may be closing.

If the opportunity is lost, it would be "disastrous," Kerry told US lawmakers meeting to confirm his nomination to be the next secretary of state.

"We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward," said Kerry, a decades-long veteran of successive attempts to reach an elusive deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

"But I also believe that if we can't be successful that the door, or window, or whatever you want to call it, to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous in my judgment."

He insisted however: "I have a lot of thoughts about that challenge."

Kerry refused to go public though on how he could maybe kick-start the peace process, citing concerns about harming any move to bring the notoriously prickly two sides together.

"I'm not going to say anything that prejudices our getting a negotiation going in the appropriate way and the appropriate manner, and I'm not even going to say what it is," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

"I will say this. President Obama is deeply committed to a two-state solution."

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for over two years, bogging down over Palestinian anger at continued Israeli settlement building.

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt any settlement building as a pre-condition for sitting back down at the negotiating table.

President Barack Obama's re-election to a second term, as well as the new coalition government emerging from Israel's elections on Tuesday, could spur moves to re-examine the situation.

Palestinians seek talks with Israel centrists: PLO
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Jan 24, 2013 - The Palestinian leadership wants new dialogue with Israeli political parties, particularly centrists who emerged strong in this week's election, an official said Thursday.

"The Palestinian leadership watches the results of the Israeli elections with great interest, and we think that these elections constitute a new chance for the Israelis to express themselves," Yasser Abed Rabbo, an official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, told reporters.

"We are willing to open a dialogue with those Israeli parties who are ready," he added.

"We extend a political invitation to Israeli parties, particularly the new ones among them, to open a dialogue before the formation of a new government," Abed Rabbo added in comments to AFP.

The invitation appeared to be directed in particular at the centrist Yesh Atid party, which claimed second place in the election, and HaTnuah, led by former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

The dialogue would "discuss the bases on which it is possible to negotiate and the result that we seek from these negotiations," he added.

Lapid, who is expected to be the second partner in Israel's next government, and has even been floated as a potential foreign minister, has said he favours negotiations with the Palestinians.

But he opposes the sharing of Jerusalem with the Palestinians, who want the eastern part of the city for their capital, and believes most of Israel's settlements in the West Bank should be annexed to the Jewish state.

Peace talks have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions.

Israeli officials said Thursday that military action against Iran needed to stay on the table, as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger warned of a crisis over Tehran's nuclear ambitions in the "very foreseeable future".

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the threat of military action was vital to efforts against Iran's nuclear programme.

"There will be more attempts to try and negotiate, but there will always be in the horizon a military option, because if the Iranians think it's only economic and political, they won't pay attention," Peres told global political and business leaders at the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear energy programme but Iran denies the charge, saying its work is for peaceful purposes only.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who emerged from an election Tuesday with a new term as Israel's leader, has frequently warned about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme.

Israel has refused to rule out a military strike to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.

Barak, who has announced plans to retire after Netanyahu forms a new government, told the forum that stronger sanctions were needed against Iran.

"There is a need for much more drastic sanctions, a kind of quarantine of all imports and exports," Barak said, though he admitted that China and Russia were unlikely to agree.

He said he understood Washington's desire to have "all alternatives" exhausted before military action over Iran, but that there was also a need to be ready to carry out targetted attacks.

"If worst comes to worst, there should be a readiness and capability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant timeframe and probably convince them... the world is determined to block them," Barak said.

In a wide-ranging talk on foreign affairs, Kissinger said he expected the Iranian nuclear issue to soon come to a head.

"For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching," he said.

"People who have advanced their view will have to come to a determination about how to react or about the consequences of non-reaction," he said.

"I believe this point will be reached within a very forseeable future."

Kissinger said negotiations with Iran needed to be given "a real chance" and that "unilateral action by Israel would be a desperate last resort."

He said he expected "Iran to be high on the agenda" of US President Barack Obama's new administration, and said failure to deal with the question could lead to a spread of nuclear weapons in the region.

"That would be a turning point in human history," Kissinger warned.

Israel has been pressing Obama to set a red line for Iran on the nuclear issue, after Netanyahu warned at the UN General Assembly in September that Tehran could have the necessary material for a first bomb by the summer of 2013.

The new US secretary of state nominee, Senator John Kerry, told a confirmation hearing on Thursday that "the clock is ticking", and that Washington will not be satisfied with just containing Iran.

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