Israel’s foreign minister said Tuesday that Iran’s claim to have tested two new missiles proved it was still a “warmongering” state despite its recent diplomatic overtures to the West.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s remarks came on the eve of an official visit to France, which is taking part in talks on Iran’s controversial nuclear programme set to resume next week in Vienna.
“France has an important role in the international efforts to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear programme,” Lieberman said in a statement.
“The new missile tests conducted by Iran yesterday are further proof its intentions have not changed and the Iranians are not even hiding their being a warmongering state,” he said.
“The only change in Iran is that now they threaten world peace behind a mask of smiles.”
Iran announced it had tested a new ballistic missile and a laser-guided projectile on Monday, after officials had earlier said that its missile programme would not be discussed in the talks with the P5+1 group of world powers.
Iran boasts long-range missiles with a maximum range of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles), enough to reach Israel.
Israel has long accused Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons alongside its civilian programme and, like the United States, has refused to rule out military action to prevent the Islamic republic from acquiring an atomic bomb.
Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the region, though it has never officially confirmed or denied having such an arsenal.
Lieberman, who heads the nationalistic Israel Beitenu faction and was long known for his stridently hawkish views, has struck a more conciliatory tone since returning to his post in November following his acquittal in a corruption trial.
He stood up for Secretary of State John Kerry after the US diplomat was slammed by Israeli ministers for remarks they took to be a threat of international boycott of the Jewish state if peace talks with the Palestinians fail.
On his first visit to France since 2009, Lieberman plans to meet with his counterpart Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
He will also hold talks with the head of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria, members of the National Assembly and senate, and heads of the Jewish communities in France, his spokesman said.
He will return to Israel on Sunday.