Israel expected to bomb Iran, French foreign minister says

By Carolynne Wheeler in Jerusalem
Last Updated: 2:18PM BST 05 Oct 2008

"I know that some people in Israel and in the army are preparing a military solution or not a solution but a military attack. I don’t know. This is not according to my opinion the solution,” Mr Kouchner told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz in an interview published Sunday, adding that he did not believe Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would give it any “immunity” from attack.

"First, because you will eat them before. And this is the danger. Because Israel has always said that it will not wait for the bomb to be ready. I think that they [the Iranians] know. Everybody knows,” he said.

The newspaper's print edition quoted Kouchner as saying that Israel would "eat" Iran, but in a written statement the foreign minister said he had used the word "hit," and that he regretted any "phonetic confusion".

Mr Kouchner said French officials believe Iran would be able to produce one bomb within two to four years, though Israeli estimates have suggested the programme is more advanced, and said further talks and sanctions were still the preferred option.

"Iran with an atomic bomb is unacceptable at all,” Mr Kouchner said. “Is the alternative to bomb first? I think not.”

Mr Kouchner’s statement follows last week’s UN Security Council’s resolution demanding an end to Tehran’s efforts at uranium enrichment, suspected to be a clandestine weapons programme though Iran maintains it is to create fuel for peaceful purposes.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, also acknowledged last week that in six years of investigations in Iran his agency has never been able to rule out such a programme.

Though Iran has rejected the UN resolutions, its envoy to the IAEA has suggested it might be willing to end uranium enrichment if it were guaranteed an international supply of nuclear fuel.

The French foreign minister met with Palestinian officials and is to meet today with the outgoing Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and his likely successor, foreign minister and ruling Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

Following warnings that a peace deal is not expected this year, he has called for the two sides to achieve a breakthrough in talks by year’s end to show the US-backed process relaunched at Annapolis, Maryland has not failed.