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Page last updated at 19:31 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 20:31 UK

Israel 'ready to act' over Iran

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak (file image)
Ehud Barak said Israel was the strongest country in the region

Israel's defence minister has warned of his country's readiness to act against Iran if it feels threatened.

Ehud Barak, speaking in Tel Aviv, said Israel had "proved in the past that it won't hesitate to act when its vital security interests are at stake".

He spoke as Iran's testing of missiles that could reach Israel stoked tensions between the two, and with the US.

But Mr Barak added that diplomatic solutions should be pursued before other options were taken up.

"Currently the focus is international sanctions and vigorous diplomatic activity, and these avenues should be exhausted," he said.

US warning

Over the past two days, the Iranian military has tested missiles, including one that it says could reach Israel.

Map of missile range

State media said the tests included the first night launch of the Shahab-3 missile, said to have a range of 2,000km (1,240 miles), along with shore-to-sea, surface-to-surface and sea-to-air missiles.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US had increased its security in the region and Iran should not be "confused" about US capabilities.

Israel has responded to the missile tests by putting on display one of its aircraft that it says can spy on Iran.

The state-run Israel Aerospace Industries says it has equipped its Eitam aeroplane, unveiled a year ago, with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems.

Mr Barak spoke of the "potential for accords, particularly with the Palestinians and the Syrians", but stressed that the situation was very complex.

Quoted by Israeli news website Ynet, Mr Barak said: "We must work towards an accord - but if not, then we must strike our enemy when it is required."

He also warned that Israel must consider the reactions from other nations in the region that could be provoked by action against Iran.

"The responses of our adversaries must be taken into account. Hamas and Hezbollah and the Syrians and the Iranians - there is activity all around us. And there exists a potential for confrontation."

Iran has been accused of doctoring an image from its missile tests

Meanwhile, the AFP news agency has issued a warning that a still image of the missiles being launched, one of several distributed by Iran, was "apparently digitally altered".

The photograph, published on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards website and reproduced by media organisations - including the BBC News website - showed four missiles taking off from a desert launch-pad.

But a similar image, issued by the Associated Press, shows one of the missiles still in its launcher after apparently failing to fire.

The BBC News website's picture editor, Phil Coomes, said: "Having examined the photograph from AFP, it can be seen that parts have been edited, with smoke trails and parts of the foreground being cloned."

In recent weeks, both Israel and Iran have been testing and showing off their military hardware, each saying that in the event of provocation it is more than capable of defending itself.

The Israeli air force recently carried out a large-scale exercise over the Mediterranean - regarded by many observers as a dress rehearsal should the order be given to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Israel believes Iran is building nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear programme is purely for civilian energy.

Western leaders have been trying to convince Iran to stop enriching uranium, which it has continued doing despite sanctions from the UN and the European Union.

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Iran test-fires missiles in the Gulf - footage from Iranian state TV




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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
The Australian EARLIER: New missile tests as US raises stakes - 15 hrs ago
FOX11AZ.com Barak hints at Israel's readiness to strike Iran - 15 hrs ago
Arab News 'Iran threat justifies shield' - 16 hrs ago
The Independent Israel hints at pre-emptive attack on Iran - 16 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Israel Defense Minister Hints at Iran Strike - 16 hrs ago



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