Iran castigates Israel as an atomic menace

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The Independent Online
Tehran - Iran yesterday warned of an Israeli "atomic threat" and urged Middle Eastern countries to press Israel to destroy its nuclear arsenal, the official Iranian news agency (IRNA) said.

"We demand all the countries of the region to take Israel's atomic threat seriously and guide their diplomacy in the direction of pressuring the Zionist regime to destroy its nuclear weapons," Mahmud Mohammadi, foreign ministry spokesman, said.

He accused Israel of "continuing efforts to produce nuclear weapons" and criticised its refusal to have its facilities inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Mr Mohammadi's comments came as the US Defense Secretary, William Perry, arrived in Israel from Egypt.

He said he would urge Israel to support an extension to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel has not signed.

The Israelis have also never confirmed or denied reports that they possess about 100 nuclear warheads.

Mr Perry serious security threats facing the world this decade is the danger that a rogue nation or a terrorist would get their hands on one, five or a dozen nuclear weapons and threaten the world."

Mr Mohammadi said Iran opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and called for the Middle East to be free of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Iran expressed concern at the weekend over threats that Israel may attack its nuclear facilities. Last week the New York Times reported that Israeli officials had said the country could be forced to consider attacking Iran's nuclear reactors if it does not stop its nuclear program.

"Israel was dead wrong in making such claims if it thought it had the capability to carry out its threats with no fear of reprisal," a statement by the Iranian mission at the United Nations in New York said, quoted by IRNA.

Israel's jet fighters bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

"Israel knows very well that if it carries out its threat, the countdown will begin towards its destruction," the Jomhuri Islami newspaper in Tehran said yesterday.