Tevet 17, 5767
Ministry in Jerusalem denied Sunday a report in the British media that
Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment
facilities with conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.
Citing what it said were several Israel Defense Forces sources, the British newspaper The Sunday Times said two Israel Air Force squadrons had been training to blow up an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear "bunker busters."
Two other sites, a heavy water plant at Arak and a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, would be targeted with conventional bombs, the Sunday Times said.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said that Israel wanted the issue of Iran's nuclear program resolved through diplomacy.
"The focus of the Israeli activity today is to give full support to diplomatic actions and the expeditious and full implementation of Security Council resolution 1737. If diplomacy succeeds, the problem can be solved peaceably."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office declined earlier to respond to the report.
"We don't comment on stories like this in the Sunday Times," said Olmert's spokeswoman, Miri Eisin.
Minister of Strategic Threats Avigdor Lieberman also declined to comment.
In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference that the newspaper report "will make clear to the world public opinion that the Zionist regime is the main menace to global peace and the region."
He said "any measure against Iran will not be left without a response and the invader will regret its act immediately."
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously last month to slap sanctions on Iran to try to stop uranium enrichment that Western powers fear could lead to making bombs. Tehran insists its plans are peaceful and says it will continue enrichment.
Israel has refused to rule out pre-emptive military action against Iran along the lines of its 1981 air strike against an atomic reactor in Iraq, though many analysts believe Iran's nuclear facilities are too much for Israel to take on alone.
The newspaper said the Israeli plan envisaged conventional laser-guided bombs opening "tunnels" into the targets. Nuclear warheads would then be used fired into the plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce radioactive fallout.
IAF pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000 mile round-trip to the Iranian targets, the Sunday Times said, and three possible routes to Iran have been mapped out including one over Turkey.
However, it also quoted sources as saying a nuclear strike would only be used if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene. Disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, the paper added.
Washington has said military force remains an option while insisting that its priority is to reach a diplomatic solution.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, has said it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Israel has long maintained a policy of nuclear ambiguity. Recent perceived slips by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have reinforced suspicions that Israel does have nuclear arms, but Jerusalem has stuck to its line that it will not be the first to introduce atomic weapons to the region.
The Sunday Times newspaper was the first to report on Israel's nuclear capabilities in 1986, based on leaked information by Mordechai Vanunu, a former employee at the Dimona research plant.
Following the expose, Vanunu was snatched by Israeli agents in Italy and returned to Israel, where served an 18-year prison sentence. He was released in April 2004.