Published September 21, 2009
Israel has not given up the option of a military strike on Iran's nuclear program, the chief of Israel's military and a senior Israeli official said on Monday, refuting remarks made over the weekend by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"Israel has the right to defend itself and all options are on the table," Israel Lieutenant-General Gabi Askenazi said during a rare interview on Army Radio.
The army chief's statement comes after Medvedev said on Sunday that Israeli President Shimon Peres assured him it would not attack Iran.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was asked by Reuters on Monday if the comment by Peres, as reported by Medvedev, was a guarantee there would be no Israeli strike on Iran.
"It is certainly not a guarantee," Ayalon said. "I don't think that, with all due respect, the Russian president is authorised to speak for Israel and certainly we have not taken any option off the table."
In an interview with CNN television broadcast Sunday, Medvedev also confirmed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit to Moscow this month that included a meeting with the Russian president.
In a transcript of the interview released by the Kremlin, Medvedev hedges on the question of whether Russia would support Iran if it were attacked by Israel.
Although Russia has no defense agreement with Iran "this does not mean we would like to be or will be indifferent to such an occurrence. This is the worst thing that can be imagined," Medvedev said of a potential Israeli strike.
"What would happen after that? Humanitarian disaster, a vast number of refugees, Iran's wish to take revenge — and not only upon Israel, to be honest, but upon other countries as well."
"But my Israeli colleagues told me they were not planning to act in this way, and I trust them," Medvedev said.
It was not clear whether those referred to included Netanyahu. In a CNN clip played on Israeli TV and dubbed in English, Medvedev refers to Israeli President Shimon Peres as the source of the assurances.
"In one hour I will talk with the president of Israel, Mr. Peres, who when recently visiting me he told me a very important thing to all of us. He said Israel doesn't intend to deliver any strike against Iran. He said, 'We are a a peaceful country.'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.