Russia: Israeli threat of strikes on Iran 'a mistake'

Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant (file image from August 2010) Iran insists its nuclear programme is solely to generate power for civilian use

Military action against Iran would be a "very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences", Russia's foreign minister has warned.

Sergei Lavrov said diplomacy, not missile strikes, was the only way to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.

His comments come after Israeli President Shimon Peres said an attack on Iran was becoming more likely.

The UN's atomic watchdog is expected to say this week that Iran is secretly developing a nuclear arms capability.

Diplomats say the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, due for release on Tuesday or Wednesday, will produce compelling evidence that Iran will find hard to dispute.

Iran has always insisted that its nuclear programme is exclusively to generate power for civilian purposes.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said the alleged evidence is a fabrication and part of a multi-pronged US smear campaign against his country.

Time 'running out'

Mr Lavrov said it was "far from the first time" Israel had threatened strikes against Iran, when asked for his view on Mr Peres' recent comments.

"Our position on this issue is well-known: this would be a very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences," he told reporters.

Start Quote

I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there was not much time left”

End Quote Shimon Peres Israeli President

Mr Lavrov said "the only path for removing concerns is to create every possible condition" to resume the talks between Iran and six world powers - including Russia - which broke down in December last year.

Shimon Peres said on Sunday: "The possibility of a military attack against Iran is now closer to being applied than the application of a diplomatic option."

"I don't think that any decision has already been made, but there is an impression that Iran is getting closer to nuclear weapons," he told the Israel Hayom daily.

He made similar comments to Israeli television on Saturday, saying: "I estimate that intelligence services of all these countries are looking at the ticking clock, warning leaders that there was not much time left.

Diplomats, speaking anonymously, have been briefing journalists on the IAEA's next quarterly report on Iran.

Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk: 'If no action is taken to slow down Iran ... then a military strike would be likely'

The evidence is said to include intelligence that Iran made computer models of a nuclear warhead, as well as satellite images of what the IAEA believes is a large steel container used for high-explosives tests related to nuclear arms.

The IAEA has reported for some years that there are unresolved questions about its programme and has sought clarification of Iran's secretive nuclear activities.

Of this week's report, one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency: "There are bits of it which clearly can only be for clandestine nuclear purposes. It is a compelling case."

Hardline Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami warned the IAEA on Monday not to become "an instrument without will in the hands of the United States".

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