TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran dismissed on Saturday a warning by France’s president that the Islamic Republic was taking a dangerous gamble over its nuclear programme because one day its arch-foe Israel could strike.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham accused Israel of threatening global peace but reiterated Tehran’s publicly stated view that it was not in a position to attack Iran.
Separately, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted as saying that new long-range missiles had strengthened Iran’s defensive capabilities. “Today, the enemy does not dare to attack Iran, as it knows that it will receive fatal blows from Iran if it ventures into such a stupid act,” Nour Ali Shoushtari said in the city of Qazvin, Iran’s Press TV station reported.
Western powers accuse Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter, of seeking the atom bomb under the cover of a civilian nuclear programme. Iran denies the charge, saying it only wants to master atomic technology in order to generate electricity.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if the dispute cannot be settled through diplomacy.
During a visit to Damascus on Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran was “taking a major risk in continuing the process to obtain a military nuclear capacity.” He added: “One day … we could find one morning that Israel has struck.”
Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB quoted Elham, the government spokesman, as saying in response to Sarkozy’s statement: “These threats are because of weakness … and it reflects the reality and the war-seeking nature of the Zionist regime.”
Elham added: “This regime is not big enough and does not have the capacity to want to think about a war with Iran.”
He said Israel “uses every chance to threaten global security and peace.”
The U.N. Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran over its failure to heed calls to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for power plants, or for nuclear weapons if refined further.
Israel, long assumed to have its own atomic arsenal, has sworn to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear-armed power.
Speculation about a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities has risen since Israel staged an air force exercise in June which was reported to be a simulation of a strike against Iran. Iran says it would hit back if attacked.
Tension rose further in July when Iran said it test-fired nine missiles, including a “new” Shahab 3 missile, which officials have said could reach targets 2,000 km (1,250 miles) away. Iran has said Israel and U.S. bases are in its range.
Shoushtari, deputy commander of the Guards’ ground force, said progress in developing military equipment including long-range missiles “has added to our ability to prevent an enemy attack,” Press TV reported.