NATO chief: Israel entitled to nukes
Quote:NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says he would never expect Israel to abandon its 'supposed nuclear arsenal'.
Israel is widely believed to have acquired some 200-300 nuclear warheads from its Western allies. Former US president Jimmy Carter confirmed in late May that Tel Aviv is the sole possessor of a nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.
Speaking at a conference in France, Scheffer said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would never question Israel's nuclear drive because of Iran's nuclear activities.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), is entitled to the civilian application of nuclear technology, such as generating electricity for its growing population.
Contrary to the findings of the UN nuclear watchdog, the United States, Israel and their European allies accuse the country of seeking nuclear weaponry.
The UN body, which has extensively monitored Iran's nuclear work since 2003, said in its latest report that it could not find any 'components of a nuclear weapon' or 'related nuclear physics studies' in the country.
Regional countries, meanwhile, have repeatedly voiced concerns about Israel's nuclear program - which is believed to be producing at least 7-8 atomic bombs per year.
While Middle Eastern states seek a nuclear-weapons free zone, Tel Aviv's 'supposed nuclear arsenal' is seen as the most dangerous destabilizing factor in the region.
The NATO secretary-general, however, did not appear to feel the threat posed by Tel Aviv.
"As we all know, Israel never admits to what it has, but I do not see very many arguments for the Jewish state to abandon its potential," Scheffer said in his Monday address.
He ultimately sought to shift focus from Israel to Iran, by questioning Tehran's conventional missile program.
"What is as dangerous is the missile technology which (Iran) is also developing at a fast pace," Reuters quoted Scheffer as saying.
Iran, which has been repeatedly threatened with war by Israel, says its missile program is an integral part of its defensive doctrine.
Israel and its number one ally the United States, meanwhile, attempt to link Iran's nuclear program to the missile projects in order to lobby support for measures against the country.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Sunday evoked the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
"I honestly don't believe that it (nuclear weapons) will give any immunity to Iran. First, because you will hit them before (Iran makes a nuclear bomb)," the outspoken minister said.
"I know that some people in Israel and in the army are preparing a military solution or not a solution but a military attack (against Iran)," he added.
Over the past two years, high-ranking Israeli officials have repeatedly claimed that should Iran continue with its nuclear enrichment program, Israel would have no choice but to strike the country's nuclear facilities.
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