Asharq Alawsat, the influential London-based and Saudi-owned Pan Arab daily reported today that Iran will give Syria $1 billion to purchase weapons from Russia and North Korea in exchange for Syria’s pledge not to enter peace talks with Israel. The financial pledge came directly from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a visit to Damascus earlier this week.
Reacting to the news, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the chairman of the opposition Binyamin Netanyahu to establish a national unity government in light of the strategic threat posed by the tightening ties between Syria and Iran, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.
Israeli news site Ynetnews quoted a senior member of the Knesset from Kadima party, Yitzhaq Ben Yisra'el, as also urging Olmert and Netanyahu to form a “national emergency government” to deal with Iran.
Israel and Syria had been in contact in recent days through third parties, including Turkey, EU and US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev announced.
Ahmadinejad’s sudden trip to Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar Al Asad was regarded by Iran analysts as Iran’s attempt to prevent any peace talks between Syria and Israel. Asharq Alawsat report on the $1 billion Iranian offer, however, came as total surprise. Such move by Iran can indeed pave the way for Netanyahu’s return to government, a possibility that might prove costly for the Islamic Republic.
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