Iran’s disputed nuclear program could be severely hit by firing 1,000 cruise missiles in a 10-day attack, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Asked in an interview with Germany’s Focus magazine whether military action would be an option if Iran continued to defy the United Nations, Olmert said: “Nobody is ruling it out.”
The full interview with the prime minister will be published Sunday.
Focus magazine told Ynet that the interview took place last Wednesday, but sources close to the prime minister said the magazine’s reporter was invited to the Prime Minister’s Office for a closed meeting only as a representative of the New York Times and London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat.
The sources denied that Olmert made the remarks.
“It is impossible perhaps to destroy the entire nuclear program but it would be possible to damage it in such a way that it would be set back years,” Olmert was quoted by the magazine as saying.
“It would take 10 days and would involve the firing of 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles.”
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) criticized Olmert's comments. “His careless behavior with the German press is very serious. The prime minister is again acting recklessly in his declarations of bombs and missiles, while severly damaging Israel’s security,” Steinitz said.
Iran says it is developing nuclear technology for power generation, but the West fears it is trying to build a bomb and two sets of UN sanctions have been imposed on Tehran.
'Ability to enrich on an industrial scale'
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged Washington on Friday to speak directly to Iran over its nuclear program and said he was sure Tehran was ready for such talks.
Focus quoted Olmert as saying UN sanctions should be given a chance to work before military action was considered.
“We must give the (UN) process time to take effect,” he said. “We have no intention of attacking Iran at the moment.”
Olmert said he doubted whether Iran’s nuclear program was as far advanced as Tehran said.
“I don’t think that Iran is about to cross the nuclear technology threshold as its leaders claim,” he said. “We still have time to stop them.”
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has proclaimed Iran’s ability to enrich on an “industrial scale”, but UN inspectors say it remains at test level.
Iran would face further sanctions if it has not stopped enrichment by a new Security Council deadline of May 24.
The prime minister also warned of possible ramifications of an attack on Iran, saying it would “make the entire Iranian nation our enemy, turn other Muslim countries against us and cause even greater problems.”
Turning his attention to the Saudi peace initiative, the prime minister said it could only serve as a starting point for future negotiations due to some of its “contradictory” clauses, such as the right of return.
“Do they want the Jewish state to commit suicide?” he asked.
Olmert said he did not know whether Syria’s recent peace overtures were serious or not, but added that “Bashar Assad should be given the benefit of the doubt.”
“As prime minister I cannot miss any chance for peace,” he said. “Would my political rivals in Israel not punish me if I ignore Assad and a war breaks out with Syria as well?”
Reuters contributed to this article