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      Olmert: Israeli and Western Nukes ?No Comparison? to Iran

      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert broke 40 years of ambiguity about Israel's nuclear capability on Monday in an interview with German TV.

      By Hana Levi Julian
      First Publish: 12/11/2006, 9:00 PM / Last Update: 12/11/2006, 10:39 PM

      In a broadcast that aired the day before his first visit to Germany as Israel's Prime Minister, Olmert said that the nuclear threat from Israel and Western nations is “no comparison” to the prospect of such a weapon in Iranian hands.

      The interview with the N24 Sat 1 TV station focused on the economic, defense and historical issues Olmert is planning to raise during his meeting Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

      Germany’s economic ties to Iran were a major focus of Olmert’s remarks in the interview, in which he slammed the nation’s business relationship with the Islamic Republic.

      The Prime Minister said pointedly that Germany’s Nazi past has created a much greater obligation to Israel – and by extension, to the Jews – than to doing business with Iran.

      “May I suggest to the German people,” he said, “don’t ever again use this argument when it comes to the life of the Jewish people. You may have an economic interest, you may have a business interest, but you have a deeper and more fundamental moral obligation to yourself, to your history and to your future.”

      Olmert is visiting Germany – which has paid billions of Deutschmarks (and now Euros) in reparations to Holocaust survivors and the State of Israel - while a two-day conference devoted to legitimizing Holocaust denial is currently taking place in Teheran.

      In an unprecedented admission, the Prime Minister included Israel in a list of countries which have already acquired nuclear weapons. Until now, Israel has maintained a deliberately ambiguous stance regarding its nuclear capabilities.

      In the interview, however, Olmert said Iran is working hard to acquire the same nuclear capabilities – and weaponry – as those who have already done so, such as the United States, France, Israel and Russia. He responded to the interviewer’s follow-up question about the nuclear bomb with a brusque, “I’m certain you can go to the Secretary of Defense of America and talk to him about that.”

      He also reminded the interviewer that Iran has repeatedly threatened to destroy the Jewish State, something no other nuclear-capable country has done. Olmert emphasized that nuclear capability in Israeli hands could not be compared to the prospect of an Iran equipped with a nuclear arsenal.

      “Israel is a democracy,” Olmert said. “Israel doesn’t threaten any country with anything – never did. The most that we tried to get for ourselves is to try to live without terror, but we never threaten another nation with annihilation. Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map,” he emphasized.

      Nor should any comparison be made between those Western nations which have nuclear weapons and the rapidly-developing threat in Iran, he added.

      “You are talking about civilized countries that do not threaten the foundations of the world, that do not threaten other countries that they will use the nuclear weapons in order to destroy them,” he said.

      Olmert also talked about the chaos and terrorism in the Gaza Strip. He reiterated his offer to Italy to consider deployment of an international peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip if Germany were to send its soldiers to the region.

      His comments to German viewers about the possibility were essentially the same as those he made to the Italian leadership.

      “Do you want German soldiers to be killed in Gaza because of terror?,” he asked bluntly. “Do the Italians want their soldiers to be killed in terrorist actions in Gaza? I don’t say no to anything that advances peace, but I don’t hasten to say yes to something that is not understood and which may prove to be very, very damaging to the countries involved.”