JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that Israel has the "might and power" to defend itself against any threat from Iran, indicating a willingness to use military force if necessary against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Olmert spoke after Iran defiantly vowed to continue its nuclear program, despite new sanctions the U.N. imposed on Tehran on Monday for refusing to suspend uranimum enrichment, a process necessary to build an atomic bomb.
"Israel definitely sees itself threatened by Iran," Olmert said in a tour of northern Israel. "Israel has the might and power to defend itself against any threat."
But he quickly added, "I don't think the Iranian matter is primarily Israel's responsibility. It is the responsibility of the United States and the leading countries in the international community that are convinced Iran constitutes a threat."
Israel has always said it favored a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear affair, and did not see itself taking the lead in the campaign against Tehran's efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities.
On Tuesday, Olmert said the international community had to take additional steps to stop Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran insists is peaceful. He did not say what he thought those steps should be.
Israel considers Iran a serious threat because of its nuclear program and its arsenal of long-range missiles, which can be fitted with nuclear warheads and are capable of striking the Jewish state.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," and there is evidence Iran bankrolls extremist anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian areas.