'Obama will stand strong as a lion' for Israel's security, Peres says
In event marking Fourth of July, President Shimon Peres says, "I am certain that the U.S. will stand against any hint of threat and danger" coming from Iran • Netanyahu tells Americans: "July 4th is a time ... to be thankful that history granted America the power to match its ideals with action" • Low-level nuclear talks begin in Istanbul.
Eli Leon, Shlomo Cesana, Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
U.S. Ambassador in Israel Dan Shapiro (left), his wife Julie Fisher, and President Shimon Peres celebrate the Fourth of July at the ambassador's residence in Herzliya, Tuesday.
Photo credit: Amit Magel
Iran launches medium-range Shahab-3 missiles in a warning to the U.S. and Israel, during its latest war games exercise, Tuesday.
Photo credit: AP
U.S. President Barack Obama will "stand strong as a lion" in order to ensure Israel's security, President Shimon Peres said Tuesday night at an event in honor of U.S. Independence Day on Wednesday.
Speaking at U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro's residence in Herzliya, Peres commented on the Iranian threat, saying, "I am certain that under Obama's leadership, the U.S. will stand against any hint of threat and danger."
"Obama will stand strong as a lion in order to ensure his country's security and Israel's well-being," Peres said.
The Fourth of July celebration was attended by dignitaries and Israeli public figures, including Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.
"I’m so glad that we are able to share this with all of you here tonight," the U.S. Ambassador told guests. "We're celebrating something deeply meaningful: the core American values in our Declaration of Independence 236 years ago."
"Today is a day to celebrate, not just the birth of our nation, but the friendship between the U.S. and Israel," Shapiro said.
Peres thanked Obama for honoring him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last month, and said, "God Bless America. God Bless the friendship between the State of Israel and the USA."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was unable to attend the event, congratulated the American people, by video, on their country's 236th anniversary.
"...as the leader of one of the world's most vibrant democracies ... I appreciate all the great sacrifices that America has made in order to advance liberty and democracy throughout the world," Netanyahu said.
"July 4th is a time to not take freedom for granted. It's a time to be thankful that history granted America the power to match its ideals with action," he added. "It's a time for free people everywhere to send their best wishes to the United States of America, to the country that has done so much to make the world a safer, freer and more peaceful place."
The Fourth of July greetings came as low-level discussions on Iran's nuclear program opened in Istanbul on Tuesday. The discussions aim to see whether there is enough common ground to return to full-fledged talks.
Tuesday's meeting of technical experts followed three rounds of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers that have failed to produce a breakthrough.
The experts have no mandate to strike agreements but the six powers — the United States, China, Britain, Germany, France and Russia — hope that by clarifying technical aspects of Tehran's work they can open way for more negotiations in the future.
Diplomats in Istanbul said discussions were "detailed" and would most likely be followed by a meeting between a senior negotiator from the European Union and Iran's deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri. Such a meeting could, at a later date, be a prelude to talks on a political level, diplomats have said.
"We hope Iran will seize the opportunity ... to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said ahead of the meeting. Ashton and her team represent the six powers in dealings with Iran.
A day before the talks begin, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the semiofficial ISNA news agency, "We want to see a win-win outcome. ... In the talks, the other side has no choice but to find an agreement, otherwise confrontation will be the alternative."
As a priority, the powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to levels close to weapons-grade, ship out any stockpile, and close a secret facility where such work is done.
Iran denies its programme has a military dimension and wants relief from economic sanctions before it makes any concessions.
The U.S., Israel and others believe Iran seeks to build nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is purely for civilian purposes, such as producing energy and medical isotopes.
The Istanbul meeting comes as Iran continued its "Great Prophet 7" missile exercise on Tuesday, saying it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel as a response to threats of attack.
Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to secure a halt to its disputed nuclear energy programme. The United States also has military force as a possible option but has repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new economic sanctions are implemented against Iran.
Iran's official English-language Press TV said the Shahab-3 missile with a range of 1,300 km (800 miles) — able to reach Israel — was tested along with the shorter-range Shahab-1 and Shahab-2.
On Sunday, Iran threatened to wipe Israel "off the face of the earth" if the Jewish state attacked it.
Analysts have challenged some of Iran's military assertions, saying it often exaggerates its capabilities.
Senior researcher Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Iran's missiles were still relatively inaccurate and of limited use in conventional warfare. With conventional warheads, "their only utility is as a tool of terror and no more than that", he said by telephone.
He added, however, that they could be suitable for carrying nuclear warheads, especially the larger ones.
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould also commented on the Iranian nuclear issue on Tuesday. Talking to reporters in Tel Aviv, Gould said the world powers will not “run after Iran to plead with them” to continue talks if they see the negotiations are not advancing.
"If Iran thinks they will bamboozle us through game playing and negotiations they will be disappointed,” Gould said. “We are not naïve, not stupid. Our chief negotiator to the talks was our ambassador to Iran, Sir Geoffrey Adams — we have a great deal of experience, and are not going to be easily fooled.”
Gould stressed however that, "For now we don’t believe that military action would be right.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian media quoted a report by Iranian news agency Fars on Tuesday saying that Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi would come to Tehran at the end of next month to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement and to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Egyptian presidential office denied the report and other reports saying Morsi met with Netanyahu's special envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and that Israeli officials have been in contact with top officials from the Muslim Brotherhood.