The head of Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence service, has assured Benjamin Netanyahu, its prime minister, that Saudi Arabia would turn a blind eye to Israeli jets flying over the kingdom during any future raid on Iran's nuclear sites.

Earlier this year Meir Dagan, Mossad's director since 2002, held secret talks with Saudi officials to discuss the possibility.

The Israeli press has already carried unconfirmed reports that high-ranking officials, including Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister, held meetings with Saudi colleagues. The reports were denied by Saudi officials.

"The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission which is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia," a diplomatic source said last week.

Although the countries have no formal diplomatic relations, an Israeli defense source confirmed that Mossad maintained "working relations" with the Saudis.

John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who recently visited the Gulf, said it was "entirely logical" for the Israelis to use Saudi airspace.

Bolton, who has talked to several Arab leaders, added: "None of them would say anything about it publicly but they would certainly acquiesce in an overflight if the Israelis didn't trumpet it as a big success."

• Click here to read the rest of this story in the Sunday Times of London.