Following angry denials by officials in the Prime Minister's Office of a report in the German magazine Focus that quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying, "It would take about 10 days and 1,000 Tomahawk missiles to severely damage the [Iranian nuclear] program," the interviewer himself denied writing any of the content.
Focus journalist Amir Taheri contacted Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisen late Saturday and told her that Focus had agreed to remove the material in question from its Web site after the Prime Minister's Office complained, and after he disclaimed the article.
Eisen confirmed that Taheri had met with the prime minister earlier this month for about half an hour, and that officials in the Prime Minister's Office had taped the conversation.
"This was not even an interview. The reporter did not tape the conversation or even take notes," Eisen explained. "The prime minister simply did not say the things attributed to him."
Present at the background briefing, in addition to Eisen, were Olmert spokesman Yaakov Galanti and the prime minister's adviser on Iranian affairs, Uri Lubrani.
Taheri also said he had been unaware that his meeting with Olmert was a briefing. He said he had understood that it was a regular interview.
Focus had said Olmert conceded that military action would not come without severe consequences that would have to be carefully considered.
"Perhaps it's not possible to destroy the entire nuclear program, but it's possible to damage it to the extent that it would be set back years," Olmert reportedly said.
"We must ask ourselves if the use of military force would not make the entire Iranian people our enemy and...bring other Muslim nations against us, thereby creating even more problems," Olmert was quoted as saying.
Focus further quoted Olmert as saying UN sanctions should be given a chance before military action was considered.
"We must give the UN process time to take effect. We have no intention of attacking Iran at the moment," he added.
Olmert doubted whether Iran's nuclear program was as advanced as Teheran claimed, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported on the country's nuclear abilities.
"I don't think Iran is about to cross the nuclear technology threshold, as its leaders claim. We still have time to stop them," Olmert reportedly went on to say.