Page last updated at 15:38 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 16:38 UK

Israel's 'options open' on Iran

Isfahan nuclear plant, file pic
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes

Israel has not ruled out any options in dealing with Iran's nuclear programme, a senior Israeli official has said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said there was no guarantee Israel would not launch a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The comments come after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Israel had assured him it had no such plans.

Tehran says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes and denies it is seeking to build nuclear weapons.

In an interview with US network CNN, Mr Medvedev said Israeli President Shimon Peres had told him in person Israel was not planning any strikes on Iran.

According to a transcript of the interview, released by the Kremlin on Sunday, the Russian president said such a strike would cause a "humanitarian disaster" and be "the worst thing that can be imagined".

But Mr Ayalon said that remark was "certainly not a guarantee" that there would be no military action.

"I don't think that, with all due respect, the Russian president is authorised to speak for Israel and certainly we have not taken any option off the table," he said.

'Confront planes'

Israel's leaders have consistently said military action is an option in dealing with what they see as a serious nuclear threat from Iran, and Mr Ayalon's comments were later echoed by Israel's army chief, Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi.

He told Army Radio sanctions were the best way of "coping" with Iran, but if they did not work Israel had "the right to defend itself and all options are on the table".

Meanwhile, a former US national security adviser has said the US should consider using force to prevent Israeli planes from reaching Iran to launch such an attack.

"We are not exactly impotent little babies," Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served under US President Jimmy Carter, said in an interview with the Daily Beast news website.

"They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?"

He said the US had to be "serious" about denying Israeli planes the right to fly over Iraqi airspace to reach Iran. "That means a denial where you aren't just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them," he said.

"No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse," he said, referring to Israel's attack on the USS Liberty in the Six Day War in 1967 - Israel said it had thought the ship was a hostile Egyptian vessel.

The US, Russia, the UK, France, China and Germany are to attend international talks with Iran on 1 October which are expected to cover global nuclear disarmament.

On Sunday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied his country intends to develop nuclear arms.

He said their production and use were prohibited, and that US allegations of a covert programme were false.

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