R E G I O N: Attacking Iran would be ‘catastrophic’: Mubarak
BERLIN: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in an interview published on Saturday that he hopes tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme will not lead to a US attack on the country - a move that would be “a mistake of catastrophic proportions.”
Washington believes Iran has a secret nuclear weapons programme and has been pressing the UN atomic agency to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.
“If the United States were really to attack Iran, that would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions,” Mubarak was quoted as saying by the German weekly Der Spiegel, responding to a question about Middle Eastern fears of such an attack.
“Terror and violence in the Middle East and, shortly afterward, in the whole world, would then overshadow everything we have seen so far,” he added. “I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Iran insists that it is only pursuing a peaceful nuclear energy programme. In Saturday’s interview, Mubarak also asked the US to push forward the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“We would like the Americans to concentrate on solving this problem,” he said, adding that he remains confident a Palestinian state will be created in the coming years. “I see the year 2008, when the second term of US President George W. Bush ends, as the probable time frame,” he said.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip next year, coupled with the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, could turn 2005 into a “year of great opportunity.” “As things stand, Sharon is the only one in Israel who can take the courageous step toward peace,” Mubarak told Der Spiegel. “The contacts that we had with Sharon over recent weeks showed that he wants to move.”
Washington has shown no sign of willingness to overcome 25 years of hostility with the Islamic republic, dating back to the 1979 hostage siege at the US embassy in Tehran, and open a dialogue of its own with Iran.
Influential neo-conservatives such as former Defence Policy Advisory Board chairman Richard Perle advocate “regime change” in Tehran. Others have talked of the possibility of US military strikes against Iranian nuclear plants.
With the imminent departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the US cabinet member seen as most sympathetic to European views, an opening towards Tehran seems remote. agencies