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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 18:26 GMT
Iran warns against Israeli strike

Miranda Eeles
BBC News, Tehran

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran
Khatami's comments were mild compared to some
President Mohammad Khatami of Iran has said Israel would be making a mistake if it carried out its threat to destroy Tehran's nuclear capabilities.

He was reacting to comments made last week by the Israeli defence minister.

The minister, Shaul Mofaz, had implied that Israel was making plans to destroy Tehran's nuclear sites.

Mr Mofaz's comments were the latest in a series of threats by Israel on the danger they believe Iran poses in the Middle East.

'Digging its own grave'

President Khatami's dismissive remarks were mild in comparison to those of other senior members of the government.

According to the Mehr news agency, the head of the Iranian air force General Seyed Reza Pardis said if Israel launches an attack on Iran, it will be "digging its own grave."

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami watches a missile parade in Tehran
There are fears Iran may develop nuclear technology for weapons
He later warned that an attack would have serious consequences beyond the imagination of the Israeli leaders.

Whether these threats are serious or not, he said, Iran's armed forces are totally prepared to defend sensitive sites and the country's airspace.

Both were reacting to comments made by the Israeli defence minister.

Mr Mofaz last week told listeners on Israel radio's Persian-language service that if an operation to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities is launched, the necessary steps will be taken so that Iranian citizens will not be harmed.

For months Israel has been trying to focus international attention on what it perceives is the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Last month the head of Israel's overseas intelligence service said Iran's nuclear programme posed the biggest threat to the existence of the Jewish state since its creation in 1948.

Last week Iran bowed to pressure from the international community by signing the additional protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which allows intrusive snap inspections of its nuclear sites.

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