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Tue, Jan 09, 2007

Israel Denies Reports Of Plans For Iran Nuke Attack

But Conventional Strike Still A Possibility

Officials in Israel angrily denied a recent report in a British newspaper, claiming the Mideast nation is planning a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran.

The Daily Telegraph reported Monday that sources within the Israeli prime ministers office and foreign and defense ministries, as well as a retired intelligence expert flatly denied the report that appeared in Sunday's London Times. The paper reported Israeli officials were planning the nuclear attack to stop the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel has stated before it's unlikely to ever use nuclear weapons preemptively against Iran, although it has left the possibility of a conventional strike on the table.

A preemptive nuclear strike would be a first for Israel -- but such an attack using conventional weapons is not. Israel employed such an attack in 1981 to destroy a nuclear reactor in Iraq, in a mission dubbed Operation Opera. Bombs dropped from eight F-16s knocked the reactor out -- and is widely believed to have thrown a wrench in then-Dictator Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions.

Experts say a similar attack on Iran would be more complicated, however. Unlike the attack on Iraq -- which had most of Saddam's nuclear technology located within one facility -- Iran has spread its nuclear program out over at least a dozen sites.

Military planners in Israel say a successful raid on one key target, however, would delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons -- and possibly bring Iran to the bargaining table.

And, with the continued hostility from the regime in Tehran... it's an option Israel is seriously considering.

"I do not advocate a military, Israeli preemptive strike against Iran. I am aware of all its possible repercussions," said Israeli deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh last year. "I consider it very much the last resort but sometimes the last resort is the only resort."

Israeli intelligence reports state Iran is expected to be a nuclear power no earlier than 2010. Iran's nuclear program has run into problems enriching uranium.



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