JERUSALEM, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Monday Israel would consider "all options" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, lending a stronger tone to his comments on the Islamic Republic’s atomic programme.
Olmert, who has said Israel wanted to take a back seat to international efforts to curb uranium enrichment by Iran, made the new remarks after a U.S. intelligence report said last month Tehran’s nuclear weapons’ programme had been on hold since 2003.
"Regarding the threat of nuclear Iran, all options are on the table," an official quoted Olmert as telling parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee.
"Israel cannot reconcile itself with a nuclear Iran and there is no option which we are ruling out in advance," Olmert said, according to the official, who has a mandate to brief the media on the prime minister’s comments to the committee.
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 the existence of the Jewish state.
But Israeli leaders have stopped short of any direct threat of military action against Iran, whose conventional missiles can reach Israel and beyond.
Iran was high on the agenda of discussions U.S. President George W. Bush held with Olmert during his visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank last week, Israeli officials said.
Oil-rich Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons and says it is enriching uranium only for use in generating electricity.
When asked about an Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Israel needed to step up its intelligence gathering and diplomatic pressure to strengthen sanctions against Iran. (Writing by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Charles Dick)