Iran Vows to Strike Israel Immediately if Attacked

Turkey PM to his 'dear friend' Ahmadinejad: Keep Mideast nukes-free; Israel: Erdogan hurting ties.

A senior cleric within Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday reiterated warnings that Tehran would strike Tel Aviv immediately if Israel and its Western allies attacked Iran.

"The enemies know if they fire a missile toward Iran, the dust from explosions by Iranian missiles will rise in Tel Aviv even as their missile is still in the air," a report by the semiofficial Fars news agency on Tuesday quoted cleric Mojtaba Zolnour as saying.

The cleric issued a similar warning in October, when he said Iran would blow up the heart of Israel if the United States or the Jewish state attacked it first. His comments are not unusual.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has since 2005 often called for Israel's destruction and predicted its demise.

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has voiced skepticism over the effectiveness of any further sanctions against Iran in the dispute over its nuclear program, saying he still supported a diplomatic solution.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published on Tuesday, Erdogan said he had repeatedly told his "dear friend" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that there should be no nuclear arms in the region.

The Turkish prime minister criticized countries pushing for another round of sanctions in the Security Council, of which Turkey is a non-permanent member.

"We consider that this question should be resolved diplomatically," he said. "Sure, sanctions are an issue at the moment, but I don't think that the ones being discussed can bring results."

Israel on Monday accused Erdogan of attempting to integrate with the Muslim world at the expense of the two country's ties, hours after Erdogan criticized Israel over actions in Jerusalem and Gaza.

"Israel is not interested in confrontation with any country, including Turkey," said the Foreign Ministry in a statement. "The impression that is being created is that the Turkish prime minister is seeking to integrate with the Muslim world at Israel's expense."

Erdogan is going to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday as part of a two-day trip to France. The United States, Britain, France, and Germany expect to meet with Russia and China in New York this week to begin drafting a new round of sanctions.

Once the five permanent, veto-holding Security Council members, plus Germany, agree, they will present the proposal to the other 10 council members. Lebanon, Turkey and Brazil are likely to oppose the idea.

"Those who took the decision to apply [previous sanctions] were the first to violate them," Erdogan said in the interview. "The French, the Germans, the English, the Americans and the Chinese. They are all involved and still manage to indirectly send their products to Iran."

Iran rejects Western accusations that it is trying to make nuclear weapons and says the programme is aimed at generating electricity for civilian use.

Iran is the second-biggest supplier of natural gas to Turkey, its neighbour, and Erdogan said their peaceful relations and trade ties must be taken into consideration in the talks.