UPDATE 2-US: Iran threat to Israel unprovoked, unnecessary

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WASHINGTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - The White House sharply criticized Iran on Wednesday for threatening to bomb Israel if attacked by the Jewish state, saying such comments were “totally unprovoked and unnecessary” and seemed provocative.

The deputy commander for Iranian air force operations was quoted by the semi-official Fars News Agency as saying that a plan of retaliation was being drawn up in the event Israel attacked Iran.

“I won’t ascribe motives to them but it does seem provocative. I would tell you that Israel doesn’t want war with its neighbors,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

“I can’t tell you why someone in Iran would say something like that about Israel. It’s totally unprovoked and unnecessary,” she added. She had earlier called the Iranian comments “unhelpful.”

Perino also reiterated U.S. calls for Iran to comply with Western demands that it stop enriching uranium.

“What the world has asked for is for Iran to comply with its Security Council obligations to stop its movement toward the nuclear weapons,” she said.

“And that way, the people of Iran, who can do a lot better than the government that they have now, would be able to prosper and have a free and good life.”

Some analysts have speculated that Israel, a close U.S. ally, could seek to stage a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, where Israel and Western nations believe Tehran is developing technology to build bombs.

Iran denies the accusation, saying it wants nuclear technology strictly for civilian electricity purposes.