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. Israel chief of staff warns Iran over nuclear 'threat'
JERUSALEM (AFP) May 12, 2005
The Israeli chief of staff issued a veiled warning Thursday against Iran over its pursuit of a controversial nuclear programme, army radio reported.

"Israel has always found the means to respond to threats ... I hope that pressure being put on Iran will be effective," General Moshe Yaalon was quoted as saying when asked about the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

A top Iranian nuclear official announced earlier Thursday that Tehran could soon announce a resumption of a "noticeable part" of uranium conversion work, part of the process used to produce nuclear fuel for power generation or the explosive core of an atomic bomb.

Currently heading EU negotiations with Tehran, Britain, Germany and France have offered Iran a package of incentives in return for "objective guarantees" that it will not develop weapons.

But Iran, insisting on its "right" to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, warned that the mounting pressure could undermine its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- the cornerstone of the global effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

Israeli arch-enemy Iran has always denied that it is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

Yaalon's declaration came the same day as Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Iran would be able to produce a nuclear bomb in "six to nine months time".

It came a day after Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said he doubted that talks between Iran and the European Union would stop Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

"I do not think the dialogue taken on by the European troika can halt Iran's course towards atomic weapons," Mofaz said.

What would stop the Iranians, he said, would be for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Tehran and implement "precise and detailed checks" of Iranian nuclear installations.

As the world's only superpower, the United States had a duty to see the matter brought before the Security Council, Mofaz continued, saying Israel was sharing intelligence with Washington and other governments over Iran.

"It is a vital matter for Israel. This is a threat not only against our country but against the entire free world," added Mofaz.

Israeli aircraft attacked and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear installation at Osirak, outside Baghdad, in 1981.

On March 22, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel had no intention of launching a strike against Iranian nuclear installations.

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