Iran threatens to use 'all means' in pre-emptive strike on Israel
Iran threatened to launch pre-emptive action against Israel yesterday in the event of an attack on its nuclear facilities.
Mohammed Hejazi, the deputy head of Iran's armed forces, hinted that Tehran could order proxy militant groups in Gaza and Lebanon to fire rockets into Israel.
"We are no longer willing to wait for enemy action to be launched against us," he told Iran's Fars news agency. "Our strategy now is that we will make use of all means to protect our national interests.
"We enjoy the ability to show them all types of confrontation in case of a foolish act by the Zionist regime."
Iran has steadily built up the rocket arsenals of Hezbollah, the Shia militant group in Lebanon, and Hamas, the Palestinian movement whose stronghold is the Gaza Strip, after both were depleted during military operations by Israel in 2006.
The two movements are believed to have tens of thousands of rockets capable of reaching cities deep inside Israel.
The threat comes amid growing concern in Washington that Israel is preparing to launch unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear facilities within months. US and British officials, including William Hague, the UK foreign secretary, have publicly urged Israel to avoid the use of force and instead give American and EU sanctions against Iran's central bank and energy sector time to work.
But Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Ehud Barak, his defence minister, have told US officials that pleas for restraint are "playing into Iran's hands", according to Israel's 'Haaretz' newspaper.
Separately yesterday, the country defiantly pledged to press on with its efforts to develop atomic energy as the United Nations nuclear watchdog started a second day of meetings in Tehran to clarify aspects of the country's activities.
Iran has mastered the full nuclear-fuel cycle and the International Atomic Energy Agency supervises its work, Ramin Mehmanparast, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday.
Iran is exercising its "right to peaceful nuclear energy," he said, adding: "There is nothing to negotiate."
A team of IAEA officials arrived in Tehran yesterday for two days of meetings that provide an opportunity to defuse allegations of a possible military aspect to the country's nuclear program.
The delegation is in Iran for talks, not inspections, Mr Mehmanparast said.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran says it has the right to enrich uranium on its soil and maintains it wants atomic power to produce electricity for its growing population. (© The Daily Telegraph, London)