Gates causes worry in Israel

JERUSALEM, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- Israeli officials want to know why U.S. Secretary of Defense-designate Robert Gates made a statement to Congress that Israel has nuclear weapons.

The U.S. media generally reports that Israel has such weapons, but there has been no official confirmation.

Haaretz reported that Israeli officials are worried about Gates' statement and want to know if it was a private statement or if Gates conferred with top U.S. officials prior to making the claim.

They also want to know whether Gates was implying Israel could handle a nuclear Iran by itself.

Although Gates has extensive experience in intelligence and diplomacy, the implication reportedly contradicts what U.S. President George Bush told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a recent meeting, the newspaper said.

Haaretz reported that Israeli officials were also shocked at Gates's statement that he understood why Iran wished to obtain nuclear weapons.