Iran: We Retaliate if Israel Hits Our Nuclear Facilities

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's top nuclear negotiator warned Israel on Tuesday that his country would certainly retaliate if the Jewish state were to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

Israel and the United States suspect Iran is secretly building nuclear weapons under cover of a nuclear program to produce electricity. In the past, Israel has said it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. In 1981, Israeli fighter-bombers destroyed a nuclear reactor that was under construction outside Baghdad because it feared Iraq would acquire a nuclear weapon.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said last month Iran was a threat to Israel, "maybe the main existential threat."

In an interview with state television, Iran's chief negotiator on nuclear affairs, Hasan Rowhani, warned that an Israeli attack would have severe consequences.

"Israel knows our hands are well equipped," Rowhani said. "If such an incident happens, it will meet a resolute response from our side."

Rowhani did not explain what he meant by saying Iran was "well equipped," but Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said in December that Iran would strike back with long-range missiles if Israel were to attack its nuclear facilities.

Shamkhani said Iran's Shahab-3 missile, which has a range of about 1,300 kilometers, would be one of the weapons used. Israel is about 965 kilometers west of Iran.

Suspicion of Israel and its agents is pervasive in Iran. On Saturday, Iran's armed forces closed the new Imam Khomeini International Airport on its first day of scheduled flights. Citing security concerns, the armed forces spoke of possible links between Israel and a Turkish company that has a contract to operate the airport. The Turkish company rejected the allegation.

Turkey does have military links with Israel.

Iran is building its first nuclear reactor, which is expected to come on stream next year. It has been criticized by the International Atomic Energy Agency for failing to disclose certain aspects of its nuclear program. Iran has promised to cooperate fully with IAEA inspectors and insists its program is only for peaceful purposes.