Iran: Olmert's nuclear comments are sign of Israel's weakness

By Haaretz Service and Agencies


Kislev 24, 5767

Iran said on Friday that a remark by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, interpreted by some as an admission that Israel has nuclear weapons, was a sign of Israel's weakness.

"Their prime minister has announced they have got nuclear arms," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters on a visit to the Kazakh capital Astana. "It does not show their strength. It shows their weakness. They are afraid."

"The international community should react to this in an appropriate way," he said. Iran on Wednesday called for United Nations Security Council action against Israel.

In a German TV interview aired Monday, Olmert said: "Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear
weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

Olmert aides said the remarks did not constitute an admission that Israel had atomic weapons.

The comments generated a storm of controversy in Israel and abroad, with leading opposition lawmakers in Israel accusing Olmert of undermining Israel's campaign to curb Iran's atomic ambitions.

Independent analysts believe Israel has built between 80 and 200 nuclear warheads since the late 1960s. Israel refuses to discuss the matter, under an "ambiguity" policy aimed both at deterring regional foes and avoiding an arms race.

Meanwhile, Mottaki also said Friday that any United Nations Security Council resolution to pressure Iran over its nuclear program would be illegal, news reports said.

"The referral of our dossier to the U.N. Security Council is an illegal
political move," Mottaki was quoted as saying by the Russian Interfax news agency in Astana.

The Security Council could vote next week on whether to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can create fuel for power generation or the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

Mottaki said Iran is continuing its uranium enrichment program under the
observation of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"You know that our [nuclear] facilities are regularly visited by IAEA
inspectors," he was quoted as saying.

Iran says its program is intended only to generate power, but the U.S., its European allies and Israel fear Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.