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Israel urges U.S. to adopt Cuba-like embargo on Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States should impose sanctions unilaterally against Iran in the same way it acted alone by clamping an embargo on Cuba 50 years ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to journalists as he attends a ceremony in Tehran, October 17, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Israel, which sees a mortal threat in the prospect of Iran getting a nuclear bomb, has lobbied for “crippling” U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran’s energy sector.

But Washington and other world powers have balked at such measures for now, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week the Security Council should be sidestepped if it cannot agree to act.

“We are a little worried by the pace of developments in the international arena,” Lieberman told reporters.

“I think that from now on Israel should perhaps change its Iran policy a little, and we should ask the United States to adopt the Cuban model ... Here the United States alone can do everything in order to stop this (Iranian) program.”

The Cuban communist revolution of 1959 frayed ties with the United States. A year later, the Eisenhower administration imposed an embargo on Castro’s Cuba, allowing in only food and medicine.

In 1962, the Kennedy administration banned all Cuban imports and re-exports of U.S. products to Cuba from other countries.

Subsequent administrations kept the internationally criticized embargo in force, with occasional measures to ease or tighten it, but the European Union and most other nations have not followed it.

Critics calling for the lifting of the embargo note it has failed to dislodge the communist government while stunting the Cuban economy and causing hardship to the island’s population.

“The Cuban model is very simple. It has already proven its efficacy,” Lieberman said.

“And if the United States adopts the legislation and the entire Cuban model toward Iran without awaiting understandings and consensus within the Security Council framework, this would be enough to strangle and bring down the Iranian regime.”

An Israeli diplomatic source said Lieberman was proposing the United States shun foreign firms that continue to do business with Iran.

Asked about Lieberman’s remarks, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv said: “We are committed to working with the international community to establish an effective sanctions regime to encourage the Iranians to meet their international responsibilities.”

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, has hinted it could attack Iranian atomic facilities if it deems international diplomacy a dead end. The specter of an ensuing regional war has hovered over the international crisis talks with Tehran, which denies it has hostile designs.

Editing by Charles Dick