Baghdad has warned Israel that it would respond to any attempts by the Jewish state to use Iraqi airspace for a strike against Iran's nuclear program, a top Iraqi minister told the AFP news agency.
The remarks from Hussein al-Shahristani, deputy prime minister responsible for energy affairs, mark the first time a senior Iraqi official has publicly warned Israel against entering its airspace -- the most direct route -- to hit targets in Iran.
Shahristani also said that Iraq had received assurances from Washington that the United States would not use its airspace to attack Iran, which is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.
"The (Americans) have assured us that they will never violate Iraqi airspace or Iraqi sovereignty by using our airspace to attack any of our neighbors," Shahristani said in an interview in his office in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, according to AFP.
"We have also warned Israel that if they violate Iraqi airspace, they will have to bear the consequences."
The minister said that the issue had been discussed in Iraq's national security council, and the warning had been passed to Israel "through countries that they have relations with".
Asked how Iraq would react to any Israeli attempt to target Iran's nuclear program, Shahristani responded by saying, "Obviously, Iraq wouldn't be disclosing its reaction, to allow Israel to take that into account."
Western powers led by Washington along with Israel are at loggerheads with Iran over allegations that its nuclear program is aimed at developing an atomic weapon.
Tehran has repeatedly rejected the allegations, maintaining that its nuclear program remains solely for peaceful purposes, all the while threatening to obliterate the Jewish state.