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. Nuclear Iran is threat to whole world: Israel
JERUSALEM, April 12 (AFP) Apr 12, 2006
Iran's announcement that it has enriched uranium should be a cause for concern for the entire world but may be merely a tactic to strengthen itself against international pressure, Israeli military chiefs said Wednesday.

The Jewish state has come to view the regime in Tehran as its number one enemy, alarmed in particular by a call last year from hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Ahmadinejad called in a speech late Tuesday for a no-holds-barred acceleration of enrichment work -- a process that can be extended to make the fissile core of an atom bomb.

His comments came after Iran's atomic energy chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh told the same conference that nuclear scientists had managed to enrich the uranium to 3.5 percent, or the purity required for civilian reactor fuel.

Israel's chief of staff Dan Halutz said Iran's announcement should worry not only the Jewish state but the whole world.

"This announcement is worrying for everyone as we have seen with the international reaction," Halutz told army radio.

A nuclear-powered Iran "represents a threat to the whole world and not only Israel," added Halutz.

However Halutz said that Iran was still some way off from being in a position to develop nuclear weapons.

"The Iranians are not there yet. Time is an essential element in the diplomatic process, and I believe that things will change during this process," said Halutz, who is of Iranian origin.

The head of Israeli military intelligence also said the international community should be sceptical about how far down the road Iran was in developing its nuclear programme, estimating that it would unlikely acquire a nuclear bomb before the end of the decade.

"The Iranians want to present the world with a fait accompli, to determine that the debate over enrichment capabilities is behind them, and that enrichment is already being accomplished on Iranian soil," Amos Yadlin told the Haaretz daily.

"The announcements from Tehran are a bargaining chip. They are meant to move the debate to the next point -- the extent of enrichment."

According to the Israeli analyst and Iranian expert Reuven Pedatzur, Ahmadinejad's announcement "is a clear message to the international community that Tehran will continue its nuclear programme without worrying about its protest."

Pedatzur said an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities could not be ruled out but called such a situation "extremely hypothetical."

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, but has campaigned tirelessly for Iran to be brought before the UN Security Council and face sanctions for its nuclear activities.

Former prime minister Shimon Peres, a leading member of the governing Kadima party, said Israel should act with caution and not find itself in a position where it is "alone on the battlefield".

"Israel should be patient and let the United States conduct the campaign," Peres told the radio.

"The US has placed the issue of Iran at the top of its concerns, and Israel should not intervene, even though the issue is a cause for concern.

"The Iranians themselves are going too far, heaping one provocation on top of another, and are turning the world against them."

Acting premier Ehud Olmert has said that the Jewish state would never allow anyone who threatened its existence to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

However he has played down talk of launching its own pre-emptive strike against Iran, saying a concerted diplomatic drive by the international community was the key to resolving the situation.

In 1981, Israel bombed Iraq's French-built Osirak nuclear reactor.

All rights reserved. 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.

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