Israel threatens to attack Iran

Published September 30, 2004

JERUSALEM, Sept 29: A military strike is among Israel's options to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Wednesday in the latest threat by the Jewish state against its arch-foe.

Asked by a newspaper if Iranian atomic facilities could be bombed - a tactic Israel used to destroy Iraq's main reactor in 1981 - Mr Mofaz said: "All options for preventing this (Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons) will be considered."

"The important thing is to stop the current (Iranian) regime reaching a nuclear option," Mr Mofaz told Yedioth Ahronoth daily. Iran says its nuclear programme is being pursued solely to meet civilian energy needs. But Tehran, which rejects Israel's right to exist, stirred world suspicion this month by defying calls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not to prepare raw uranium for enrichment.

Washington is leading diplomatic pressure on Iran to come clean on its atomic programme. "The American ... demands for invasive inspection, threat of sanctions - appear to be the right thing to do," Mr Mofaz said.

"On the other hand, the Iranians are doing everything possible to buy time. The question is what will happen first - nuclear capability or a change in the regime?" Israeli officials say Iran could produce atomic weapons by 2007, fuelling speculation Israel may strike militarily first.

Widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel plans to buy 500 "bunker buster" bombs from its US ally that could be delivered by long-range jets and prove effective against Iran's facilities, many of which are underground.

"It is possible that Western agencies, doubtful about the success of the diplomatic effort, prefer to have Israel act in their place," the liberal Haaretz newspaper said on Wednesday. "Nobody has asked Israel to refrain from a belligerent act." -Reuters

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