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. Israel creates new ministry to deal with Iran threat
JERUSALEM, Dec 3 (AFP) Dec 03, 2006
The Israeli government on Sunday approved the creation of a new ministry for strategic affairs, to be headed by a controversial ultra-nationalist and deal mainly with Iran's nuclear ambitions, a senior cabinet official said.

During the weekly cabinet meeting, "all the ministers approved the decision to form the ministry for strategic affairs" under Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beitenu party joined Prime Minister's Ehud Olmert's government in October, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The ministry will be responsible "for coordination between the different bodies regarding the different strategic threats Israel is facing," most notably Iran's nuclear programme, which the Jewish state and the United States believe is aimed at acquiring a nuclear bomb, despite Tehran's denials.

Israel -- widely considered the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear weapons power -- considers Iran its chief threat, pointing to calls from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.

Olmert said last month that "our position is that we must do everything in our power to make sure the Iranians do not cross a technological threshold that would allow them to develop nuclear weapons".

The decision still requires the approval of the parliament, where the government has a broad-based coalition.

Lieberman, whose party's main electorate comes from the large ex-Soviet immigrant community, will also head the Native Agency responsible for ties between Israel and the Jewish community in the former Soviet Union.

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