Thursday, December 14, 2006

Identifying the members of our nuclear family is purposefully ambiguous

Olmert faces the heat after his "nuclear" slip by Matthew Fisher
A day after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appeared to state Israel had nuclear arms he reverted to his country's old position of neither confirming nor denying it has weapons of mass destruction.

The official line from the prime minister 24 hours later was to repeat three times something he had also said on Monday which was: "Israel won't be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East."

In so doing, aides said Olmert maintained what Israel calls its "nuclear ambiguity," a strategy which his predecessor, Ariel Sharon said two years ago had "proved its worth and ... will continue."

Nevertheless, the longstanding policy was in a shambles this week, and not only because of what Olmert apparently said.

Without any fuss, incoming U.S. Defence secretary Robert Gates unequivocally told senators in Washington last week Israel had nukes.

In so doing, Gates became the first senior U.S. official to have ever made such an admission.

Nevertheless, as the Jerusalem Post noted Tuesday, Olmert's No. 2, Shimon Peres, who is widely described as the "father of Israel's nuclear program" acknowledged almost as much seven months ago. After what it termed "yet another genocidal outburst by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," the newspaper recalled Peres had said "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map."

he CIA first concluded in a report in 1968 that Israel had begun to produce nuclear weapons, but Washington and Israel never officially acknowledged this.

The Jewish state is thought to have quietly built up an arsenal of as many as 200 nuclear weapons.

Israel has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus sparing itself intrusive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency or sanctions from it and other international bodies.

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