U.N. warns attack on Iran will spark ‘fireball’ in Middle East

Source: The Telegraph | By Tim Butcher

The United Nations nuclear watchdog has warned that a military strike on Iran to prevent it developing atomic weapons would turn the region into a “fireball”. Mohamed ElBaradei said unilateral military action, which has not been ruled out by Israel or the US, would push the Islamic republic into a “crash course” of developing nuclear weapons and threatened to resign if an attack took place.

“What I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger,” said Mr ElBaradei. “If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time … it would make me unable to continue my work.”

“A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything,” the International Atomic Energy Agency director general said. “It would turn the region into a fireball.”

He said any attack would only make the Islamic Republic more determined in its confrontation with the West over its nuclear programme.

“If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West.”

Sources at the Pentagon and other US government agencies have confirmed that Israel recently carried out a full rehearsal of an air assault on Iran’s nuclear sites. The exercise, was said to have involved as many as 100 warplanes and its target in the eastern Mediterranean was 900 miles from Israel, roughly the same distance as Iran’s nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz.

A Pentagon official said that it was designed by Israel as a clear signal of the seriousness of its intentions towards Iran. “They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know,” said the official.

The exercise, in the first week of June, came as President George W Bush and Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, both said in public that a nuclear Iran was “unacceptable”. Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and has twice acted by itself to stop its regional enemies developing a nuclear capability, in Syria last year and Iraq in the 1980s.

Facing so much domestic political opposition over his policies in Iraq, President Bush will be unlikely to cobble together the necessary backing for a US-led attack on Iran. However, an Israeli-led attack would not need domestic American support.

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