February 8, 2009 / 7:43 PM / 10 years ago

Olmert says no Israeli government would let Iran get nukes

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will not allow arch-foe Iran to develop nuclear weapons, no matter what the political make-up of the Israeli government, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday ahead of a national election.

Leading the race to replace the centrist Olmert in Tuesday’s ballot is hawkish opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who has hinted that Israel, believed to have the region’s only atomic arsenal, could attack Iran to destroy means for building a bomb.

Though Netanyahu’s Likud will have to consider forming a new coalition government with the more moderate Kadima and Labor parties, Olmert told a visiting French delegation such considerations would be irrelevant to Israel’s stand on Iran.

“The prime minister emphasized that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, and that in this matter Israel has neither government nor opposition, and no future government will change this Israeli position,” Olmert’s office said in a statement.

Israeli premiers have traditionally secured the approval of opposition leaders for military action of major strategic import, such as the 1981 sneak bombing of Iraq’s atomic reactor.

For a similar 2007 sortie which the CIA said destroyed a secret Syrian reactor — something denied by Damascus — Olmert first conferred with Netanyahu.

Iranian officials say their atomic ambitions are peaceful and have brushed off the threats of a preemptive Israeli attack. Though Iran’s nuclear facilities are distant, numerous and fortified, some experts believe Israel could pull off a strike.

The United States is leading international efforts to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment through a combination of sanctions and diplomatic overtures but, like Israel, has not ruled out force.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Louise Ireland

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