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Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 20:32 UK

Latest round of sabre-rattling

By Jeremy Bowen
Middle East editor, BBC News

Iranian image of the Shahab-3 being tested
Israel and the US both condemned Iran's test-firing of the Shahab-3
The timing of the Iranian missile test was not accidental.

Neither was an Israeli military exercise which took place last month.

Then, the Israelis sent around 100 aircraft about the same distance west that they would have to fly east if they were despatched to bomb Iran's nuclear installations.

Both sides are sending messages and rattling sabres.

Israel, which already has nuclear weapons, is saying it would be prepared to attack if it thought Iran was getting a bomb.

Iran, which denies it is developing nuclear weapons, is signalling that if it is attacked it can strike back at Israel's home territory.

Parallel with all of this is an attempt by the big powers to pressurise and persuade Iran to negotiate.

Talks are expected soon between the Iranians and Javier Solana - the international envoy who has offered a package of incentives to the government in Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

Tehran says it wants to talk, but so far has not agreed to pre-conditions: first to freeze and then to suspend the enrichment of uranium.

A promising diplomatic process would pre-empt an Israeli attack - most likely to Israel's relief.

War on Iran would push the region, and the world, into dangerous, unknown territory.




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