JERUSALEM – Israel will consider "all options" to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said in an interview published Wednesday, marking the latest in a series of Israeli threats against Iran's nuclear program.
Concern about Iranian nuclear development intensified last week when Iranian Vice President Reza Aghazadeh (search) said the country had started converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, an important step in making a nuclear bomb.
The declaration came in defiance of a resolution passed by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (search), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, demanding Iran freeze all uranium enrichment — including conversion
Israel considers Iran its most dangerous enemy and worries that Iran's nuclear weapons program is intended as a threat against it. Iran denies it is developing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear development program is aimed at generating electricity.
Mofaz told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot that Israel had to be prepared to deal with what he called the Iranian "threat."
"All options have to be taken into account to prevent it," he was quoted as saying.
Mofaz said there was a chance a moderate regime would emerge in Tehran to stop the development of nuclear weapons, but if not, measures had to be taken to prevent their deployment.
"The question is what comes first, nuclear ability or regime change," Yediot quoted him as saying.
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel is "taking measures to defend itself" — a comment that raised concern Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear installations along the lines of its 1981 bombing of an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak near Baghdad.
Speculation has also been fueled by recent Israeli weapons acquisitions, including bunker-buster bombs and long-range fighter-bombers.