Iran has warned that a strike by Israel could unleash a world war. The sharp words have worn on the patience of key players in the negotiations with Iran. They say peace is still possible, but also want more sanctions.
A day before the United Nations General Assembly is scheduled to meet, an Iranian official said his country would attack Israel if provoked. The comments came from Amir Ali Hajizadeh, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Sunday and were broadcast by Iran's state-run Al-Alam television station on Sunday.
"Iran will not start any war but it could launch a pre-emptive attack if it was sure that the enemies [Israel] are putting the final touches to attack it," Al-Alam paraphrased the brigadier general as saying.
Hajizadeh said an attack by Israel could unleash "World War Three."
"Our response will exceed their expectations," said Hajizadeh. "Their assessment of our missile capabilities is wrong. Our response will not only be missiles," he said.
Hajizadeh also remarked on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent plea for US intervention in the matter.
"We cannot imagine the Zionist regime starting a war without America's support. Therefore, in case of a war, we will get into a war with both of them and we will certainly get into a conflict with American bases," said Hajizadeh.
In recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been alluding to Israel's intentions of striking Iran first if need be, drawing attention to Iran's alleged nuclear capabilities and the threat it poses to the Jewish state.
Two weeks ago, he called on US President Barack Obama to clearly state at which point the US would intervene in the dispute; Obama declined.
International leaders admonish Iran
Meanwhile in New York, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in anticipation of Monday's meeting of the UN General Assembly. The various issues they discussed included the war in Syria and the anti-Islam film that has sparked worldwide protests.
Ban also criticized Iran's aggressive rhetoric toward Israel in light of peace-keeping efforts, "[drawing] attention to the potentially harmful consequences of inflammatory rhetoric, counter-rhetoric and threats from various countries in the Middle East," according to a statement issued by Ban's press office.
Iran must "take the measures necessary to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program," Ban added, according to the statement.
Foreign diplomats revealed on Sunday that three countries had called for further European Union sanctions against Iran, according to the AFP news agency.
In a letter last week EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Britain, France and Germany called for tougher measures on Iran, with AFP saying a diplomat told them about the letter on condition of anonymity on Sunday.
Despite Iran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful, Western countries - especially Israel - worry that it is seeking the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
kms/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, dapd)