Tehran: Iran on Friday warned its response to any attack by arch-enemy Israel would be “swift and destructive,” amid rising tensions over Iran's stance toward the Jewish state.
“The policy of the Islamic republic of Iran is completely defensive, but if we are attacked, the answer of the armed forces will be swift, firm and destructive,” Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
He was responding to a question about Iran's reaction in case of an attack on its nuclear facilities, already under scrutiny as international unease grows over the Islamic republic's nuclear intentions.
“The doomed fate of (Iraqi ex-president) Saddam (Hussein) must be a lesson for officials of the usurping Zionist regime,” Najjar added in a reference to the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988 in which around a million people were killed.
A heated verbal exchange has intensified between the Jewish state and Iran over a series of anti-Israel outbursts by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred,” Ahmadinejad said in a speech on Wednesday.
“Our proposal is this: give a piece of your land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska so they (the Jews) can create their own state.”
Ahmadinejad also caused uproar in Israel and the international community in October when he called for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map”.
Israeli chief of staff Dan Halutz warned on Tuesday that Iran — under pressure from the UN nuclear watchdog, the United States and European Union over its nuclear program — will have acquired all the necessary technological know-how to build a nuclear bomb by March.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on December 1 that Israel would never allow Iran to come into possession of nuclear weapons but insisted that diplomacy was the best way to confront Tehran.
“Israel, and not only Israel, cannot accept a situation in which Iran would be in possession of nuclear weapons,” Sharon said, adding “we must do everything possible to prepare for such a situation.”
Ahmadinejad's remarks drew widespread condemnation from Western powers but little reaction from the Arab world.
Arab television showed Ahmadinejad's remarks and Western reactions while most Arab newspapers stuck to straight news coverage without commentary, an absence of comment that one Arab diplomat told AFP was “both prudent and ambiguous.”
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian energy purposes but the United States believes it is a cover for building nuclear weapons.
The European Union cranked up pressure on Iran Friday and warned time was running out for a diplomatic solution.
“The EU condemns unreservedly President Ahmadinejad's call for the eradication of Israel and his denial of the Holocaust,” it said at the conclusion of a summit focused primarily on the bloc's budget.
“The European Council is gravely concerned at Iran's failure to build confidence that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.” An EU-Iran meeting is planned for next Wednesday in Vienna, but European and Western diplomats say there is little hope of progress in getting Tehran to abandon nuclear fuel work.
Iran has maintained that it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.
Enrichment makes what can be fuel for nuclear power reactors but also the raw material for atom bombs.