'Nuclear bunker being built for Olmert'

PMO denies report workers thickening walls, installing decontamination equipment at PM's residence.

pm residence 224.88 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
pm residence 224.88 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office issued a statement Thursday strongly denying a report that Olmert's residence was being outfitted with a bunker that can withstand a nuclear or chemical attack. The PMO called the Yediot Ahronot report "unfounded and misleading." The statement said workers were merely adding a "safe room," a room with thick concrete walls and metal-shuttered windows that is a feature of many Israeli buildings. Israeli construction codes require such rooms to protect residents in case of rocket attacks. "No atomic bunker is being constructed at the prime minister's official residence, or a bunker equipped with special filters or any special equipment," the statement said. Yediot Ahronot had claimed that workers at Olmert's official Jerusalem residence were thickening walls, digging, and installing air decontamination equipment capable of countering chemical agents. Yediot said that the work at Olmert's residence follows the renovation of a bunker underneath the building housing his office, where Cabinet ministers are supposed to convene in case of an attack on Israel's government center in Jerusalem. As part of the push to protect Israel's leaders from a a non-conventional attack, the paper wrote, Israel is also building a giant nuclear bunker in the hills several kilometers (miles) outside Jerusalem that will be accessible via a tunnel leading from government offices inside the city. The bunker is supposed to house the military's headquarters and top government officials if the country comes under nuclear attack. Work on the bunker began several years ago and is expected to end in 2011, the report said. The report added that Israel's concerns about a nuclear attack are focused mainly on Iran, its most bitter enemy. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has said Israel should be "wiped off the map." Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, but insists it isn't for military purposes. A US intelligence report this month said Iran had abandoned its push to become a nuclear power. But Israel believes Iran is still trying to develop nuclear weapons and fears the Jewish state - which also has a sizable nuclear arsenal, according to foreign reports - would be the primary target.