Iran complains to UN about Israeli "threats"

* Iran demands UN respond to Israeli "threats"

* Israeli officials hint Israel could attack nuclear sites

* Obama hopes engagement will defuse crisis

UNITED NATIONS, April 14 (Reuters) - Iran on Tuesday called on the United Nations to respond firmly to what it described as Israel's "unlawful and insolent threats" to launch an attack on Tehran's nuclear installations.

Israeli officials, including President Shimon Peres, recently have suggested that the Jewish state could use military force to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, as the West suspects it is doing.

Iran insists it is only interested in building reactors that peacefully generate electricity.

Its U.N. ambassador, in a letter to Mexican U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller, said Israel was violating the U.N. charter and urged the international body to respond clearly and resolutely. Mexico holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council.

"These outrageous threats of resorting to criminal and terrorist acts against a sovereign country and a member of the United Nations not only display the aggressive and warmongering nature of the Zionist regime, but also constitute blatant violations of international law," Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote.

The letter came two days after Peres told Israel's Kol Hai radio that Israel would respond with force if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad refused to soften his position on proceeding with an uranium enrichment program.

"We'll strike him," Peres said in the interview.

An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quoted last month by Atlantic magazine as saying the government was weighing the military option.

Khazaee said the remarks were "unlawful and insolent threats" based on "fabricated pretexts."


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said that Israel should be "wiped off the map," has vowed to continue his country's nuclear program.

Iran said on Monday it would welcome constructive dialogue on its nuclear program with the the five Security Council permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia -- as well as Germany.

The Security Council has adopted five resolutions demanding that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment program, three of which imposed sanctions against Tehran. Iran has so far refused to stop enriching uranium.

In his interview with Israeli radio, Peres also urged Ahmadinejad to speak with U.S. President Barack Obama, who has promised to adopt a policy of engagement with Iran and has said he is willing to meet with its leaders.

Washington cut off ties with Tehran in 1980 after militants seized the U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital. Former U.S. President George W. Bush pursued a policy of isolating Iran during his eight years in office.

U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts say Obama opposes the use of military force against Iran's nuclear sites but is worried Israel, which bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osiraq in 1981, might bomb Iranian sites if engagement fails.

If Tehran continues to enrich uranium, analysts say, Obama will have no choice but to support a push for a new round of U.N. sanctions against the Islamic Republic later this year. (Editing by Paul Simao)