Iran threat is paramount for new Israeli government: Netanyahu

Sat Feb 2, 2013 5:36pm EST
 

By Ori Lewis

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday took on the job of forming a new government and said its most important task would be to ensure that Iran does not gain nuclear arms.

President Shimon Peres formally called on Netanyahu to assemble a new coalition following the January 22 general election in which Netanyahu's rightist Likud-Beitenu emerged as the biggest party. It controls 31 seats in the 120-seat parliament.

"The paramount task of the government that I will form will be to stop Iran from arming itself with nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said as he accepted the mandate from Peres.

Israel and the West suspect that Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear atomic program is purely for peaceful purposes.

Netanyahu also hinted at the security dangers posed by advanced Syrian weapons being transferred from Syria to Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas and its apparent chemical weapons arsenal, but he did not specifically name the country.

"We will also have to deal with other deadly weaponry that is being amassed around us and threatens our cities and our citizens," he added.

Israel has remained silent, but diplomats, Syrian rebels and regional security sources said on Wednesday that Israeli jets had bombed a convoy near the Lebanese border, apparently hitting weapons destined for Hezbollah. Syria also accused Israel of bombing a research site near Damascus.

In his short acceptance speech, Netanyahu repeated his commitment to peace with the Palestinians and called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume talks with him.   Continued...

 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israeli President Shimon Peres shake hands at the conclusion of a brief ceremony at the president's residence in Jerusalem February 2, 2013. Israeli President Shimon Peres on Saturday formally asked incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new governing coalition following the January 22 general election. REUTERS/Jim Hollander/Pool (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS)