LONDON (Reuters) -Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper said.
Citing what it said were several Israeli military sources, the paper said two Israeli air force squadrons had been training to blow up an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear “bunker busters.”
Two other sites, a heavy water plant at Arak and a uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, would be targeted with conventional bombs, the Sunday Times said.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously last month to slap sanctions on Iran to try to stop uranium enrichment that Western powers fear could lead to making bombs. Tehran insists its plans are peaceful and says it will continue enrichment.
Israel has refused to rule out pre-emptive military action against Iran along the lines of its 1981 air strike against an atomic reactor in Iraq, although many analysts believe Iran’s nuclear facilities are too much for Israel to take on alone.
An Israeli government spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, declined comment on the Sunday Times report. Israel does not discuss its assumed atomic arsenal, under an “ambiguity strategy” billed as warding off regional foes while avoiding arms races.
“We don’t comment on stories like this in the Sunday Times,” Eisin said.
In Tehran, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told a news conference that the newspaper report “will make clear to the world public opinion that the Zionist regime (Israel) is the main menace to global peace and the region.”
He said “any measure against Iran will not be left without a response and the invader will regret its act immediately.”
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and Israel has said it will not allow Iran to acquire a bomb.
The Sunday Times quoted sources as saying a nuclear strike would only be used if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene. Disclosure of the plans could be intended to put pressure on Tehran to halt enrichment, the paper added.
It said the Israeli plan envisaged conventional laser-guided bombs opening “tunnels” into the targets. Nuclear warheads would then be used fired into the plant at Natanz, exploding deep underground to reduce radioactive fallout.
Israeli pilots have flown to Gibraltar in recent weeks to train for the 2,000 mile round-trip to the Iranian targets, the Sunday Times said, and three possible routes to Iran have been mapped out including one over Turkey.
An Israeli defense source, who did not want to be identified, wrote off the Sunday Times report as “psychological warfare.”
“If we have such capabilities, I find it extremely unlikely that we would use them in a ‘tactical strike’,” the source said.
“Israel’s nuclear option, if it exists, is exclusively part of a second-strike doctrine,” the source said, referring to a deterrent strategy whereby a country ensures it can retaliate massively for a catastrophic attack on its territory.
Washington has said military force remains an option while insisting that its priority is to reach a diplomatic solution.