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Security

Israel's Barak warns against a nuclear-armed Iran

Israel’s defense minister has warned that should Iran be allowed to develop atomic weapons it would lead to "nuclear terror." Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister has said Tehran is prepared for nuclear talks with the US.

On the final day of the annual Munich Security Conference, outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that his country and its allies were "determined to prevent Iran from turning nuclear" and agreed that "no option should be removed off the table."

Barak accused Tehran of trying to "defy and deceive" the whole world and said a nuclear Iran would mean "the end of any conceivable non-proliferation not just in the region but in the whole world" and lead to "nuclear terror."

He added: "Wherever you can find terror, you find the fingerprints of Iran."

Video: Barak warns Iran

For his part, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who spoke separately at the conference on Sunday, said Tehran was prepared to hold direct nuclear talks with Washington after US Vice President Joe Biden extended the offer at the conference on Saturday.

"Yes we are ready for negotiations," Salehi said.

As long as "the other side this time comes with authentic intentions ... fair and real intentions," he added. "If there is an honest intention on the other side then we will take that into serious consideration."

Salehi said Iran believed it was "wise to turn your enemies into friends," but added also that "we attach a lot of importance to our own independence."

Salehi also announced that a new round of ongoing multilateral talks over Iran's nuclear program would be held later this month.

"I have good news - I heard yesterday that the 5 + 1 or EU 3 + 3 will be meeting in Kazakhstan on Feb. 25," he said. Last year, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US, Britain, China, France and Russia - plus Germany held three rounds of talks with Iran aimed at resolving the standoff over Tehran's nuclear activities.

An eye on Syria

Barak's appearance at the conference came days after reports of an Israeli airstrike, which US sources said hit a convoy of anti-aircraft weapons inside Syria bound for the militant Hezbollah group based in Lebanon.

Israel hasn't publicly acknowledged the airstrike, however Barak referred to the issue without confirming it saying, "what happened in Syria several days ago... that's proof that when we said something we mean it - we say that we don't think it should be allowed to bring advanced weapons systems into Lebanon."

He also said, "Hezbollah from Lebanon and the Iranians are the only allies that Assad has left."

Barak said he saw the fall of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad as imminent and that when it happened, "this will be a major blow to the Iranians and Hezbollah."

In his first comments since the airstrike, Assad said on Sunday, "This aggression exposes the real role being undertaken by Israel in collaboration with hostile external powers and their tools on the Syrian land to destabilize Syria and weaken it."

He said Syria is capable of "repelling any aggression targeting the Syrian people, thanks to ... the might of the Syrian army and Syria's adherence to the path of resistance," state-run SANA news agency quoted him as saying.

hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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