Iran says Israel a 'dangerous regime'
Iranian spokesman said: Israel is dangerous to peace in the region
Iran called Israel a "dangerous regime" on Saturday after a U.S. report that the Jewish state had carried out a large military exercise, apparently a rehearsal for a potential bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities.
The comments by Iran's government spokesman came a day after the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief said a military strike on Iran would turn the Middle East into a fireball and prompt Tehran to launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office declined to comment on the exercise, first reported in the New York Times. But a senior lawmaker in his centrist Kadima Party said on Saturday that diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear programme have failed and that the next 1-2 years would be critical.
Tzachi Hanegbi, who heads parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee, told Israel Radio that the world had to decide how to proceed. Israel Radio did not broadcast direct quotes from its interview with Hanegbi.
An Israeli military spokesman said of the Times report: "The Israeli Air Force regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel."
Citing unidentified American officials, the Times said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the manoeuvres over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June.
It said the exercise appeared to be an effort to focus on long-range strikes and illustrates the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program.
Israel has long trained for missions using fighter-bomber squadrons for what officials call "possible strategic scenarios" -- code for a confrontation with arch-foe Iran.
When asked about the reported exercises, Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham said: "It demonstrates the Islamic Republic of Iran's view that this (Israel) is a dangerous regime and an impediment to peace and calm in the region and world."
Western powers suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Israel, widely believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, has described Iran's nuclear programme as a threat to its existence.
Earlier this month, Israeli Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz told an Israeli newspaper an attack on Iran looked "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of United Nations sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential.
Tehran, which does not recognise Israel and regularly predicts its demise, says its nuclear work is peaceful.
Reuters Last Mod: 21 Haziran 2008, 19:10