Bush will not hesitate to use force in Iran: Israeli ambassador

Date: 11-15-06

JERUSALEM (AFP) - US President George W. Bush will not hesitate to use force against Iran to halt its nuclear program if other options fail, Israel's outgoing US ambassador Danny Ayalon has said in an interview.

"US President George W. Bush will not hesitate to use force against Iran in order to halt its nuclear program," Ayalon told the Maariv daily Wednesday.

"I have been priviledged to know him well, he will not hesitate to go all the way if there is no choice," said Ayalon, due to return to the Jewish state next week after serving as ambassador in Washington for more than four years.

Israel, widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, views Iran as its arch-foe, pointing to repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

The international community has been wrangling for months with the Islamic republic over its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for civilian purposes and the West fears is a cover to develop atomic weapons.

In the interview, Ayalon said he thought Bush would first try to use diplomacy in trying to halt Tehran's atomic energy program.

"First the president will try to exhaust the diplomatic process," he said. "I estimate that there is a 50 percent chance that the diplomatic effort will succeed. If not, he will advance another step and consider imposing isolation and a blockade on Iran, like the US imposed on Cuba in the past.

"If this too does not succeed, he will not hesitate to employ force," he said. "If sanctions succeed, all the better. Otherwise, he will act by all means possible, including military action."

Ayalon said that a US military operation against Tehran would differ substantially from its invasion of Iraq in 2003.

"That is not the model. This is more (a case of) employing air power combined with limited ground forces.

"Anyone who is familiar with President Bush knows that he is very determined. he is convinced of the moral supremacy of democracies over dictatorships.

"Even when he was at a low, he was not alarmed and continued to stick to his path. He also told me personally, in one of these difficult moments, that if you continue and persevere in your path, the people will ultimately follow you."


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