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Israel's Peres: Iran is world's greatest danger

Israel's President Shimon Peres addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, March 12, 2013. REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos

STRASBOURG, France: The president of Israel on Tuesday called the Iranian regime "the greatest danger to peace in the world" and appealed to EU lawmakers to formally declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

Shimon Peres is in the midst of a busy trip to Europe with what appear to be two primary aims, appealing for help in restraining Iran and convincing the bloc that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that must have its assets frozen and face other sanctions.

In his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Peres' most scathing criticism was reserved for Iran. He said the Iranian regime threatens Israel's existence, smuggles arms into other countries to destabilize them and denies the Holocaust while calling for another one.

"Nobody threatens Iran," he said. "Iran threatens others."

He said the world should not only seek to stop Iran's production of highly enriched uranium but should also work to control Iran's means of delivering nuclear warheads by controlling its production of missiles.

"A nuclear bomb in the hands of an irresponsible regime is an imminent danger to the entire world," he said.

The United States and five others powers have offering to help supply and run Iran's research reactor in return for relief from U.N. sanctions.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Iran, but it is also helping lead international negotiations designed to gain proof from Iran that its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, as Iranian authorities have said.

The European Union has been under pressure to name Hezbollah a terrorist organization since Bulgarian authorities said its members were responsible for a terrorist bus bombing in July 2012 that killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian.

"Your voice is highly respected," Peres told the members of the European Parliament. "We appeal to you - call terror 'terror.'"

EU officials have noted that the Bulgarian report is preliminary, and have said they will wait for the final conclusions from Bulgarian authorities before deciding what action to take.

In a news conference after his speech, the Israeli president urged critics of Israeli settlements on occupied territory not to be one-sided. He noted that Israel had removed all settlements from Gaza, but nevertheless rockets from Gaza continue to be fired at Israelis.

"Why are they shooting at us? Why?" Peres asked. "After we listened to your advice and took out the settlements from Gaza."

Israeli settlements occupy only 2 percent of the West Bank, Peres said. "And once we shall have peace, we can handle it," he said, implying that the settlements could be removed, as they were from Gaza.

 

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