Israel 'has plan for nuclear strike on Iran'

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The Independent Online

Israel has drawn up secret plans to use low-yield nuclear weapons to knock out Iran's uranium enrichment facilities, it was claimed last night.

According to a report in The Sunday Times, two Israeli air force squadrons are training to use nuclear "bunker busting" bombs to demolish Iran's heavily guarded enrichment programme. Israeli military commanders are said to believe that conventional strikes may not be sufficient to wipe out Iran's enrichment facilities, some of which are built beneath 70ft of concrete and rock.

Under the plans conventional laser-guided bombs would open tunnels into the targets and then mini nuclear weapons would be fired, exploding deep underground. The nuclear-tipped, bunker-busting bombs would only be used if a conventional attack was ineffective, or if the US, which also wants to halt Iran's nuclear programme, fails to act. The leaking of the "plans" may well be designed to apply pressure on the US.

Israel has already made it clear that it does not want to allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. It fears for its own safety after the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said: "Israel must be wiped off the map."

Israel is said to have identified three prime targets south of Tehran, including Nantanz, where facilities are being installed for uranium enrichment underground. Israeli pilots are believed to have flown to Gibraltar recently to train for the 2,000-mile round trip to Iran.

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said last night that Israel preferred to use diplomatic means to end Iran's nuclear enrichment programme. "We have an unchanged policy position on the Iranian nuclear issue. Israel prefers this issue to be resolved through diplomatic channels," he said. "We cannot comment on any other scenario."