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Page last updated at 20:06 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 21:06 UK

US says Israel-Iran story false

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, centre, visits the Natanz uranium enrichment facility on 8 April 2008
Iranian leaders say their nuclear intentions are peaceful

The US state department has criticised reported comments by a defence official that it was increasingly likely Israel would attack Iran in the coming months.

An unnamed senior defence official told ABC News that if attacked Iran would retaliate against Israel and the US.

The official said Iran's nuclear programme was nearing "red lines" that would trigger an Israeli offensive.

State department spokesman Tom Caset dismissed the anonymous comments as ill-informed and discourteous.

"It's rather foolish of people who often have no clue what they're talking about to assert things and not even have the courtesy to do so on the basis of their name," he told reporters.

The defence official told ABC that one red line would be when Iran's nuclear facility had produced enough enriched uranium to create an atomic weapon.

According to US and Israeli intelligence estimates, ABC News reported, that could occur later this year.

"The red line is not when they get to that point, but before they get to that point," the official was quoted as saying. "We are in the window of vulnerability."

Other analysts point out that - as far as is known - Iran has not been producing weapons-grade enriched uranium at its Natanz nuclear facility, but rather low-enriched uranium which can be used for energy generation.

Iran denies its nuclear programme is anything other than a peaceful.

The other red line the defence official identified was Iran's purchase of Russia's SA-20 air defence equipment.

Pentagon officials have refused to comment on the ABC story.





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