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Israeli minister likens Iran nuclear threat to Hitler

Written by: Staff

TEL AVIV, Apr 24 (Reuters) Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz today said that the nuclear programme being pursued by arch-foe Iran was the most serious threat faced by Jews since the Nazi Holocaust.

Iran says it seeks nuclear energy, not bombs, but calls by its President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the elimination of Israel have stoked tensions. Israel has so far backed U S-led efforts to curb Iran's nuclear programme through possible sanctions.

''Of all the threats we face, Iran is the biggest. The world must not wait. It must do everything necessary on a diplomatic level in order to stop its nuclear activity,'' Mofaz told a conference on Iran at Tel Aviv University.

''Since Hitler we have not faced such a threat,'' he added.

Founded partly as a haven for survivors of the German genocide of the Jews during World War Two, Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal. Tuesday is Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Jewish state.

The war of words over Iran's nuclear ambitions has fuelled speculation that Israel could strike the Islamic republic preemptively. In 1981, it sent warplanes to bomb an Iraqi reactor at Osiraq, driving Saddam Hussein's quest for nuclear weapons underground.

Israel, like the United States, has not ruled out military action but says it prefers to see diplomacy run its course.

''Pressure must be applied on the Iranians to ensure that they realise there is no returning from the path they are taking,'' Mofaz said.

A former Israeli military chief of staff, Mofaz was born in Iran and is considered a security hawk. But he is likely to surrender the Defence Ministry to the more moderate Labour Party chief Amir Peretz in the next Israeli coalition government.


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