December 11, 2007 / 8:45 PM / 11 years ago

Olmert says Iran still seeking nuclear bomb

JERUSALEM, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that Iran was still pursuing a nuclear weapon and called on the international community to pressure the Islamic Republic to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

It was the first time Olmert commented publicly on a U.S. intelligence report published last week that said Iran’s nuclear weapon programme had been on hold since 2003.

"The U.S. report has created exaggerated debate," Olmert said at a security conference. "Nothing has changed. Iran was and still is dangerous, and we need even stronger international pressure to dissuade Iran from its nuclear direction."

Israel, which is thought to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, believes Iran could have a nuclear bomb by 2010 and says an Iranian nuclear weapon would threaten Israel’s existence.

Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says it is enriching uranium only for use in generating electricity.

"A country rich in oil and gas does not need to enrich uranium for civilian needs to create alternative energy," Olmert said.

Olmert said Iran was seeking two components necessary to build a nuclear weapon by developing sophisticated ballistic weapons systems and enriching uranium. (Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Stephen Weeks)

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