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. Israel says all options open to stop Iran going nuclear
JERUSALEM, Jan 14 (AFP) Jan 14, 2008
Israel warned on Monday that all options were on the table in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, echoing Washington in ratcheting up the rhetoric against their archfoe.

"We are not ruling out any option," a senior government official quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as telling parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee.

"Anything that can lead to preventing Iran from nuclear capability is part of the legitimate context when dealing with the problem."

His comments coincide with US President George W. Bush's Middle East trip, which is aimed in large part at mustering the support of Washington's regional allies in his campaign to isolate Iran.

Both the United States and Israel say Iran is using its nuclear drive as a cover for efforts to build an atomic bomb, but Tehran denies the charges, saying its programme is aimed at generating energy for its growing population.

Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power with an estimated 200 warheads although it has never confirmed or denied having an atomic arsenal.

During Bush's visit last week, Israel said it was keeping all options on the table if economic and diplomatic pressure failed to halt Tehran's nuclear programme.

"The Iranians are continuing their ingrained efforts to produce non-conventional capabilities and therefore we should use all the available means to stop it," Olmert said on Monday.

"There are many options that should be applied wisely, with determination and consistence," he said. "We should continue international efforts on this issue and we have a strong basis to assume, in view of my talks with the president, that this activity will not stop."

Defence Minister Ehud Barak also said on Monday that no option is being removed from the table in the face of Iran's nuclear programme.

"Iran is definitely a major challenge for Israel and the world. There are many things that can be done regarding this threat such as increasing the intelligence efforts, tightening sanctions as well as the options that are never removed from the table," he said in parliament.

A US intelligence report in December said that Iran halted a nuclear weapons programme in 2003, although Washington is still pushing for a new set of UN sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The UN atomic watchdog, which has been investigating Iran's nuclear programme for several years, said on Sunday that Tehran has agreed to clear up remaining questions on its activities in four weeks.

Tensions between Iran and the United States were heightened following a confrontation in the strategic Strait of Hormuz between Iranian speedboats and US warships just days before Bush began his week-long tour of the region.

On Sunday, Bush warned of what he called the threat to the world posed by the Islamic republic.

"The United States is strengthening our longstanding security commitments with our friends in the Gulf -- and rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late," he said in a keynote speech in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

Tehran "seeks to intimidate its neighbours with missiles and bellicose rhetoric," Bush said. "Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere."

He described Iran as "today the world's leading state sponsor of terror" and, with Al-Qaeda, the main threat to the region's stability, and called on the regime in Tehran to "heed the will" of the people.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki retorted that Bush's efforts to damage Tehran's ties with its Arab neighbours were futile, and dismissed his tour as a "failure."

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