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12/12/06

Israel Denies Policy Change After Olmert Nuclear Arms Hint

December 12, 2006, RFE/RL -- Israeli officials are denying any change in policy after comments by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he appears to admit that Israel has nuclear weapons.

In an interview with German television on December 11, Olmert said Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and accused Tehran of trying to make nuclear weapons.

Seeking to draw a distinction with Iran, Olmert listed Israel alongside nuclear powers the United States, France, and Russia.

"Iran openly, explicitly, and publicly threatens to whip Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

An Israeli spokesman later said Olmert did not mean to say that Israel has nuclear weapons, but instead had meant to describe America, France, Israel, and Russia as democracies, in contrast to Iran, which the spokesman described as an "extremist theological regime."

Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but has never confirmed or denied this.

(compiled from agency reports)


Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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