Israeli minister: Iran wants to be superpower

February 14, 2012 - 9:45 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel's deputy prime minister said Tuesday that Iran wants to revive the Persian Empire and once again become a major superpower with a nuclear bomb.

Silvan Shalom told reporters after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Iran would like to change the types of regimes in the Middle East and take control of all the oil fields in the region as part of its quest for power.

The ancient Persian Empire encompassed millions of miles (kilometers) in Asia, Africa and Europe.

Shalom said if Iranians can change regimes in the Mideast, control its oil wealth and produce a nuclear bomb, "they believe that they will be once again a major superpower in the world."

Alireza Miryusefi, spokesman for Iran's U.N. Mission, said: "This is a nonsense statement by (the) representative of a regime that killed thousands of innocents all over the world. This is a unique regime in the Middle East that has a stockpile of nuclear weapons. This regime is pursuing a policy of creating rift among Muslims in the region."

Israel views Iran as a threat to its existence, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, Iran's missile technology capable of hitting Israel, and its support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel, the U.S., and many other countries believe Iran's nuclear program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, though Tehran insists it is purely peaceful and aimed at producing civilian nuclear energy.

Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons but has never admitted it, pursuing instead an official policy of "ambiguity" hoping to deter potential attackers.

Four rounds of U.N. sanctions have failed to get Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and return to negotiations with world powers on its nuclear program.

Shalom said Iran believes nuclear weapons are an "insurance policy to keep the regime in power," but he expressed hope that tough new sanctions by the European Union, the U.S., and others might lead Iran to give up its nuclear program. These new sanctions banned the purchase of Iranian oil and froze the assets of the country's central bank.

Shalom was pessimistic about reviving peace negotiations with the Palestinians following the recent power-sharing agreement between Hamas leaders who control Gaza and refuse to recognize Israel's existence and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement which controls the West Bank and advocates a two-state solution.

"How can we have a dialogue with a government that half of it is asking to destroy us?," Shalom asked.

Shalom said it's unfortunate that in every country that experienced a popular uprising, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, Islamist groups that are "more hostile toward Israel than their predecessors" came to power.