Iran continued to wage verbal war on Israel Friday, with the defense minister saying that any Israeli strike would provoke a "destructive" response. State TV quoted the minister, Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, as saying that Iran's defenses were strong enough to thwart any attack, but were Israel to try, "the answer of the Iranian armed forces to any attack would be quick, sharp and destructive."
Iran held naval maneuvers off its southeastern coast this week, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described the Nazi Holocaust as a "myth," sparking an international outcry. In October the president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." European leaders warned in a draft statement Friday that Ahmadinejad's statements could be grounds for sanctions against Iran. EU leaders, meeting at a summit in Brussels, were expected to adopt the statement later Friday.
Israelis have openly discussed the possibility of an attack on Iran, either alone or with other countries, that would aim to cripple Iran's nuclear development capabilities. Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said Sunday that Israel has not ruled out a military strike against Iran if it advances further toward nuclear weapons. Israel is also acquiring dozens of U.S. warplanes with long-range fuel tanks that would allow them to reach Iran.
Israel, whose warplanes destroyed an unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, maintains a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. While it neither admits nor denies nuclear arms, Israel is thought to harbor about 200 nuclear warheads deployed on ballistic missiles, aircraft and submarines, according to the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
There are also concerns that a U.S. attack on Iran is possible, since top U.S. officials have repeatedly declined to rule out such action should Tehran acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies that it seeks nuclear bombs, saying its program is confined to electricity generation. But the U.N. watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said it cannot give Iran a clean bill of health because of incomplete data, reports the AP. N.U.