TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was quoted on Tuesday as warning Israel of a “very painful” response if it launched a military strike over the Islamic Republic’s disputed nuclear program.
On Friday, Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz told an Israeli newspaper an attack on Iran looked “unavoidable” given the apparent failure of U.N. sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential.
Asked about Mofaz’s comments, Najjar was quoted by the state Iran daily newspaper as saying: “Our armed forces are at the height of their readiness and if anyone should want to undertake such a foolish job the response would be very painful.”
Mofaz’s comments helped drive up oil prices by nearly 9 percent to a record $139 a barrel on Friday.
Some Israeli political commentators have accused Mofaz of making the comments to advance his personal political ambitions.
Najjar said Israeli officials “every now and then say things which amount to foolish claims.”
Iran, which has defied Western pressure to suspend its sensitive atomic work, has demanded action from the U.N. Security Council over Mofaz’s comments.
The United States accuses Iran of secretly seeking to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says its nuclear program is solely for power generation to meet the demands of its oil-rich economy.
Washington says it wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff but has not ruled out military action if that were to fail.
Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East’s only atomic arsenal, bombed an Iraqi reactor in 1981.
A Israeli air raid on Syria last September razed what the United States said was a nascent nuclear reactor built with North Korean help. Syria denied having any such facility.
Many independent analysts say Iran’s nuclear sites are too numerous, distant and fortified for Israel to take on alone.
Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked international outrage in 2005 by calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” has threatened to retaliate for any attack with missile salvoes against Israel and U.S. targets in the Gulf.