Reporter Amir Taheri told the prime minister's spokeswoman that an interview with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert published under his name on German magazine Focus' website Saturday had not been written by him.
Taheri said that the material published was not what he had passed to the magazine, and that he had asked the editors to remove the story from the site. "I apologize to you," he told the spokeswoman, Miri Eisin.
Earlier, the magazine quoted Olmert as saying that Iran's disputed nuclear program could be severely hit by firing 1,000 cruise missiles in a 10-day attack. The magazine later changed the story's aggressive headline, "Israel threaten Iran," to "Israel toughens its tone against Iran."
Focus officials have also admitted that "the impression that was created as if Olmert said that there was an operative plan to strike was exaggerated, and it is now clear that Olmert's statements were not aimed as a threat on Iran."
However, in a conversation with Ynet the editors stood by their initial reports and insisted that the text of the interview circulated in the media was correct and will be published tomorrow.
Taken out of context
An examination of the transcript of Olmert's conversation with the reporter revealed that the PM's perceived aggressiveness in the interview resulted from the fact that fine nuances of his English statements were "lost in translation."
In the original version of the interview in English, Olmert did mention – albeit in passing - the option of striking Iran, claiming that "no one has ever ruled it out." However, he stressed that the international community should focus on sanctions and diplomatic pressure on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The prime minister also referred to the dangers of an attack on Iran, and stated that he would not want to turn the whole Iranian people into Israel's enemy.
"Such an operation would turn other Muslim countries against us and cause even bigger problems," Olmert added and explained that Israel had no plans to attack.
The Prime Minister's Office said Saturday that the interview with Focus never took place. "The statements published are an utter lie and were never said… This cynical abuse of an invitation for a background conversation, which led to the publication of a false report," the office stated.
However, sources at the magazine insisted that their reporter had met with Olmert for an hour and-a-half last Wednesday.