Israeli President Shimon Peres defended on Monday his country's ambiguous policy regarding its nuclear weapons, saying that they are central to deterrence, as well as keeping peace in the region. Speaking to France 24, Peres said: "There is a reason that pushes you to own nuclear power, for me it is a tool that leads to peace not to carry out attacks."
Mr Peres was a key figure in the development of Israel's nuclear capabilities with support from France in the 1950s. When asked about the deterrence factor, he said that imagination plays a big role. "Yes, it is an ambiguous issue and it should remain so," he insisted. "Why should I clarify it?"
Experts believe that Israeli has an arsenal of at least 100 nuclear bombs although the state has never revealed the real figure or even admitted that it is a nuclear power. This stance was agreed with Washington in 1969, when the US administration also undertook not to put pressure on Tel Aviv in this regard.
Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its facilities are not subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency; nor, indeed, are those in America. The state imposes a gagging order on its media for reasons of "national security" and journalists face severe penalties if they mention the subject.
Meanwhile, after a week of talks between Iranian officials in Geneva with representatives of six world powers, Peres expressed scepticism about a possible diplomatic solution to the question of Iran's nuclear programme.
"I am not sure because there is still some distance between the two positions," said the Israeli president. "There is a change [in the Iranian position]. I think the change occurred because of the economic sanctions. Whether it is sufficient to bring them to a total and final agreement remains to be seen."