Reuters: Iran and its Revolutionary Guards would respond swiftly if Israel attacked the Islamic state over its disputed nuclear programme, an official said on Sunday. By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN, Nov 12 (Reuters) – Iran and its Revolutionary Guards would respond swiftly if Israel attacked the Islamic state over its disputed nuclear programme, an official said on Sunday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini also said Iran was pressing ahead with an expansion of its uranium enrichment work with plans to install 3,000 centrifuges by March 2007, despite U.N. demands to halt the endeavour.
Iran says it is now operating 324 centrifuges, machines which can make fuel for power plants or material for warheads.
The West fears Iran is trying to develop atomic weapons. Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil exporter, says its programme is designed to meet energy needs.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started a visit to Washington on Sunday with Tehran’s nuclear programme one of the main issues on the agenda.
Israeli officials have said they want the international community, which has been pushing Iran to halt its atomic work, to resolve the dispute through diplomatic means.
But Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 to prevent former President Saddam Hussein from making atomic weapons, and some analysts have speculated that Israel could consider similar action against Iran if it felt threatened.
Experts say knocking out Iran’s nuclear facilities would be a far tougher prospect than it was in Iraq partly because Iranian sites are spread out and heavily protected.
“If Israel takes such a stupid step and attacks, the answer of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard will be rapid, firm and destructive and it will be given in a few seconds,” Hosseini told a news conference.
The Guards are an ideologically driven wing of Iran’s military with a separate command structure to regular units.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be “wiped off the map” but has also said Iran is not a threat. Iran refuses to recognise Israel.
Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, although it has never said it possesses such weapons. Iran often complains about Western double standards in failing to confront Israel about its atomic capabilities.
“As long as some members of the U.N. Security Council support this (Israeli) regime with their veto right, there is no guarantee of establishing peace and justice in this region,” Ahmadinejad told a conference of Asian parliamentarians in Tehran on Sunday.
Iran has rejected U.N. demands to halt enrichment, the part of Iran’s programme which most worries the West, and Tehran now faces possible U.N. sanctions.
Asked if Iran was continuing plans to install 3,000 centrifuges by the end of the Iranian year in March 2007, Hosseini said: “Iran is trying to do so under the supervision of the IAEA.”
The U.N. atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, carries out routine checks of Iran’s nuclear sites.
Iran recently launched a new chain of 164 centrifuges, called a cascade. It now has two such chains working but such a small number would take years to produce enough material for a single warhead. Iran says it plans to install thousands.
“Our two cascades are working and these activities are under the IAEA’s supervision,” Hossini said, refering to the two cascades at the undergound Natanz facility in central Iran.