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. Iran must be prevented from achieving nuclear capabilities: Israel
JERUSALEM (AFP) Sep 29, 2004
Iran must be stopped before it manages to achieve nuclear capabilities, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said in an interview published Wednesday.

"The important point is to prevent the present regime from reaching a nuclear option," Mofaz said in an interview with top-selling Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot.

Iran insists that its atomic programme is purely peaceful, but the United States and Israel, in particular, fear it conceals efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

Israel, which now views Iran as its number one enemy after the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, has been lobbying hard for greater pressure to be exerted on Tehran.

"The action that the Americans are leading on the matter on the reactor -- a demand for invasive inspection, threats of sanctions -- appears to be the right thing to do," Mofaz said.

"On the other hand, the Iranians are doing everything in their power to buy time.

"The question is what will happen first: Nuclear capability or a change in the regime," said the minister, who himself was born in Iran.

Asked what should be done to prevent the Tehran regime from developing such capabilities, Mofaz said all options were being looked at.

"All options for preventing this will be considered."

Two weeks ago, the Israeli army chief of staff urged the international community to deal with the emerging nuclear threat posed by Iran.

"Iran getting non-conventional weapons capabilities will be a disaster for the stability of the Middle East," General Moshe Yaalon said.

"It's not just Israel's challenge, it is up to the world to deal with it, either politically or economically. If not, we will have to reassess our position," he added without elaborating.

In 1981, Israeli warplanes destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility after intelligence confirmed Baghdad's intention of producing weapons there.

Iran has consistently warned that it would retaliate if Israel launched any attack on its nuclear facilities.

Israel itself refuses to confirm it has a nuclear arsenal but is estimated to possess some 200 warheads.

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