Olmert's stray comment fuels the nuclear debate
But arriving in Berlin for talks with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, Mr Olmert seemed yesterday to undercut the longstanding policy of "strategic ambiguity". He is on a three-day trip to Germany and Italy, to lobby for stronger action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.
Asked by a television interviewer if Israel's alleged nuclear activities weakened his argument against Iran's atomic plans, Mr Olmert said: "Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level - when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons - as America, France, Israel, Russia?".
Israeli officials were
quick to deny that the comments marked any policy change. Mr Olmert's spokeswoman,
Miri Eisin, said he did not mean to
say that Israel
had or aspired to acquire nuclear weapons.
Although Tehran says its nuclear programme is designed solely to generate electricity, Israel has warned that Iran is intent on developing atomic weapons. Mr Olmert told Germany's Spiegel magazine at the weekend that he ruled "nothing out", when asked about the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Tehran.