Halutz: Iran could have bomb by 2008

Says Teheran nearing nuke know-how; Ahmadinejad again doubts Holocaust.

halutz 88 (photo credit: )
halutz 88
(photo credit: )
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said Tuesday that Iran was approaching the point where it would have the technological know-how to build nuclear weapons. According to Halutz, it is possible that Iran would be able to complete building a bomb as early as 2008 or as far as 2015. Halutz spoke at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday reiterated his doubt about the Holocaust and called on Muslim nations to take a proactive stand on the Palestinian issue. The president's comments, published Tuesday on Iranian state television's Web site, were the second time in a week that he has expressed doubt about the Nazi destruction of European Jewry during the World War II. Ahmadinejad provoked an international outcry in October when he called Israel a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map." "If the killing of Jews in Europe is true," the Web site quoted Ahmadinejad as saying, "and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?" The television did not broadcast Ahmadinejad's comments, and the Web site offered no reason. In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said: "The real problem with the repeated statements of the Iranian president is that they correctly represent the mind-set of the Iranian leadership, and they accurately articulate the policies of that extremist regime." The president made the remarks Monday at an Islamic conference in Teheran that was attended by Khaled Mashaal, Hamas's political leader. Later Monday, Ahmadinejad discussed the Palestinian issue with Mashaal, the Web site reported. "The Islamic world should give up its policy of passivity and deal with the Palestinian issue more actively," Ahmadinejad said, according to the Web site. He did not elaborate. He said the West could not play a neutral role in the Palestinian-Israeli issue. "The West's policy has always been in favor of the Zionist regime and to the detriment of the Islamic world. It can't be a judge or mediator now," Ahmadinejad said. Ahmadinejad provoked an angry reaction from Europe, the United States and even Russia, an ally of Iran, on Thursday when he told reporters in Saudi Arabia that Israel should be moved to Europe if the West wanted to make up for the Holocaust. The comment also infuriated the Saudis as it was made on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference that was dedicated to showing the moderate face of Islam. Ahmadinejad's remarks have also provoked a reaction from his conservative allies who fear that he is hurting the country's image. Moderate Iranians have called on the ruling Islamic establishment to rein in the president. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate say on all matters, has backed Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel's elimination. The controversy comes at a sensitive time for Iran, which is under heavy international pressure over its nuclear program. The United States is pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. Washington accuses Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies this, saying its program is strictly for generating electricity. But the IAEA says so far it has been unable to give Iran's nuclear program a clean bill of health.