Israeli strike on Iran now 'more and more likely'

07 November 2011 - 02:03 By Sapa-AFP, Reuters

Israeli President Shimon Peres has warned that an attack on Iran is becoming "more and more likely" just days before the release of a report by the UN nuclear watchdog on Iran's nuclear programme.

Peres told Israeli TV on Saturday night: "The intelligence services of the different countries keeping an eye on [Iran] are worried and are putting pressure on their leaders to warn that Iran is ready to obtain the nuclear weapon.

"We must turn to these countries to ensure that they keep their commitments ... this must be done, and there is a long list of options," Peres declared.

A senior Iranian cleric yesterday dismissed talk of a military strike by Israel as empty propaganda, taunting the Jewish state for screaming "like a cornered cat" instead of "roaring like a lion".

"The recent threats of the Zionist regime against Iran are more for internal consumption and their masters who are struggling with the Wall Street movement," said Ayatollah Mahmoud Alavi, referring to anti-capitalism protests that began in New York and have spread around the world.

"There is a difference between the roar of a lion and the scream of a cat trapped in a corner," he said. "This threat of the Zionist regime and its master, America, is like the scream of a cornered cat."

On Thursday Israel completed a major civil defence drill in the Tel Aviv region aimed at simulating a response to conventional and non-conventional missile attacks.

Israel has successfully tested what local media called a "ballistic missile", which a defence ministry official described as a long-scheduled "test firing of the rocket-propulsion system".

On Wednesday, the Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak were seeking cabinet support for a strike on Iran, which Israel and the West suspect is building nuclear weapons.

Haaretz said no decision had been taken on a military strike and that the content of the November 8 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear watchdog would have a "decisive effect" on the decision.

Previous agency assessments have centred on Iran's efforts to produce fissile material - uranium and plutonium - that can be used for power generation and other peaceful uses, but also for nuclear weapons.

But the agency's update, which diplomats say will be circulated tomorrow or on Wednesday, will focus on Iran's efforts to assemble nuclear warheads and to develop missiles to carry them.

Israeli experts have called the Iranian programme "alarming", and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the UN report would prove "beyond doubt" that it involved weapons development.

He hoped that Iran would be targeted for a new series of international sanctions.

Barak was forced on Monday last week to deny media reports that he and Netanyahu had already decided to attack Iran, despite opposition by military and intelligence chiefs.

But he said situations could arise in the Middle East that would force Israel "to defend vital interests independently, without having to rely on regional or other forces".

Haaretz said most of the 15 members of Israel's security cabinet opposed an attack on Iran for the moment. Only that body can take such a momentous decision.

Many Israeli leaders stress that Israel is incapable of launching such an operation without coordinating it with the US and without a US green light.

Haaretz reported that a poll on Thursday had found that Israeli public opinion was divided on a strike, with 41% in favour, 39% opposed and 20% undecided.

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