JERUSALEM, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday accused Iran of working to extend its influence across the Middle East, saying that time was running out for diplomacy and sanctions to convince Tehran to disband its nuclear program.
Speaking at a meeting with visiting Italian Foreign Minister, Dr. Giulio Terzi, Peres said Iran "really wants" to become the dominant player in the region and is relying on its proxies to achieve that goal.
"They have already established bases through Hezbollah and Hamas, they are involved in Syria and Iraq and want to shake up the entire Middle East," Peres said in a statement issued by his office.
The president said he did not believe the Western world would sit idly by as Iran pushes forward in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional hegemony.
"I can't imagine that the United States and Europe will allow the Middle East to fall into Iranian hands. Maybe there is a limit to time, but right now we have to do whatever we can to deepen the non-military pressures while making clear that other options remain," Peres said, referring to a host of sanctions that so far failed to curb Tehran's presumed military nuclear program.
Foreign Minister Terzi said he "fully concurs" with Peres' remarks on Iran, noting that his country has been "a very active player" in imposing tougher economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Saying that his country's foreign policy is orientated more than ever before to the Mediterranean basin, Terzi described Israeli-Italian bilateral relations as "extraordinary" and said Israel is keystone to the region "as a great democracy and a great defender of human rights and human dignity," according to the statement.
Peres is due to depart Thursday morning for an international economic forum in northern Italy, where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Mario Monti and other top government officials and heads of international organizations. Peres will deliver a speech at a special plenary on changes in the Middle East and leadership during the global economic crunch of 2008, according to a statement.
While the Iranian issue featured prominently in the meeting between Peres and Terzi on Wednesday, the two also discussed the deepening crisis in Syria and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process.