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Senior Israeli Official Warns of Possible Pre-emptive Strike against Iran


A senior Israeli official has suggested that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel wants tougher international action to stop Iran before it is too late.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh says Israel might be forced to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. In a newspaper interview, Sneh said he is not advocating a pre-emptive strike and sees it as a last resort. But sometimes, he said, "the last resort is the only resort."

It was the clearest threat yet by a senior official, and underscores Israel's growing concerns about Iran's nuclear program. A year ago, the Iranian president threatened to "wipe the Jewish state off the map," and since then Israel has warned repeatedly that it cannot allow Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Miri Eisen is spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

"The Iranian issue is a core issue," she said. "The prime minister has defined it as an existential threat. This is a potential threat to the destruction of the state of Israel. This is an impossible situation."

Analysts here say Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike, because it believes the international community is moving too slowly to stop Iran. Europe has opted for negotiations and Russia and China oppose U.N. sanctions. And now, Israel fears that President Bush has been weakened by the Republican defeat in the U.S. elections.

"The president's ability to do anything military in terms of Iran has been somewhat diminished as a result of the Democratic victory, because the Democrats will be much more vigilant that the president does not do anything unilateral," said Israeli analyst Alon Pinkas.

Iran will top the agenda when Mr. Olmert meets with President Bush at the White House on Monday.