WASHINGTON - "Hizbullah will never leave southern Lebanon. It is arming with missiles that could hit central and even southern Israel," Transportation Minister and former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, in a meeting in Washington, DC, on Wednesday.
Mofaz is participating in routine bilateral strategic talks with the United States, leading an Israeli team that includes the director-generals of the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the National Security Council, as well as the chairman of the Atomic Energy Council.
Wednesday morning's talks focused on general military policy and regional security issues, including Hizbullah armament, Hamas dominance in the Palestinian Authority and, particularly, the Iranian nuclear program.
Mofaz emphasized to Burns, who leads the diplomatic efforts with Iran for the Bush administration, and to other meeting participants that it was important to make significant diplomatic headway in the upcoming year.
Talking to Israeli reporter in Washington, Mofaz emphasized that, at this stage, military action against Iran is not on the table. "Today, it's not relevant because the diplomatic process has not been fully utilized," he said.
There are many issues that would need to be examined, prior to any such an, such as the efficacy of any military action, whether it would create an irreversible reality, and what such an attack in the Middle East would cause in the future, he said.
"If a decision to attack is brought to the table, these issues will need to be discussed," he added.
Regarding the Hizbullah threat, Mofaz stressed that Israel brought up the importance of implementing the arms embargo on Lebanon, which was decided upon by the UN Security Council with Resolution 1701.
He said the Israeli team also mentioned the importance of closing the Syrian-Lebanon border to Hizbullah arms shipments.
Two more bilateral meetings are anticipated in 2007.