Iran Air Force Says Retaliation Plan Ready if Israel Strikes

Iran air force: Retaliation plan ready if Israel strikes Iran; Egypt rejects strike against Iran, looks to normalize ties.

The deputy commander of Iran's air force said Wednesday that plans have been drawn up to bomb Israel if it attacks Iran, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

"We have drawn up a plan to strike back at Israel with our bombers if this regime makes a silly mistake," deputy air force chief, General Mohammad Alavi was quoted as telling Fars in an interview.

Foreign Ministry official Yigal Palmor said the Iranian statement makes it even clearer why the international community should adopt a very firm stance vis-a-vis Iran.

"There's no doubt that without international effort Iran will go on with all kind of threats, towards Israel and other countries as well," said Palmor. "Anybody who wishes for stability ... in the Middle East cannot but be alarmed by this speech."

Iran official has nuclear talks in GermanyGerman Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met a top Iranian security official on Wednesday for informal talks about the West's nuclear standoff with Tehran, a ministry spokesman said.

Hassan Rohani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and Tehran's former nuclear negotiator.

"It was an informal conversation," German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told reporters in Berlin. "They talked about bilateral questions, the role of Iran in the region and the nuclear conflict."

Jaeger gave no further details about the conversation with Rohani, who negotiated with France, Britain and Germany for two years until Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replaced him after his election in 2005.

The U.S. and France have called for tougher sanctions against Iran for refusing to freeze its nuclear program.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted on Wednesday diplomacy with "teeth" was the focus of U.S. efforts but Washington has not ruled out military action against Iran should such a route fail.

Rohani was originally planning to continue to Brussels for talks with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana but Solana's office said Rohani cancelled for "time reasons".

Western nations suspect Iran's nuclear programme is a front for developing atomic weapons. Iran rejects the charge and says its programme is only for the generation of electricity.

The United Nations Security Council has already slapped two rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing suspend its enrichment program.

Washington is hosting a meeting of six world powers on Friday to discuss a third sanctions resolution. Some diplomats say Berlin would prefer not to rush into more sanctions.

European diplomats have often said Rohani, unlike his successor Ali Larijani, seemed committed to a deal with the West. Other Western diplomats, however, say he once publicly boasted about how he used talks with Europe to buy time to press ahead with Iran's nuclear program.

If the Security Council fails to agree on a new sanctions resolution, the French want the other 26 EU members to approve separate EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic, an idea that European diplomats say some EU countries might oppose.

Egypt FM rejects striking against IranMeanwhile, the Egyptian foreign minister said Wednesday that Cairo is opposed to any military action against Iran and is working on normalizing its own relations with the Islamic Republic after 28 years of frozen ties.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit's remarks come amid rising U.S. ire over Iran's nuclear program and a day after a senior Iranian delegation held a series of meetings in Egypt.

"Egypt absolutely does not agree with solving the Iranian nuclear issue by force or any military action," Aboul Gheit said.

He said, that Egypt, a key U.S. regional ally, "supports peaceful settlement for this issue through negotiations which guarantee the Iranian right to a peaceful nuclear program."

The United States alleges that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

The Iranian delegation was led by Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi and it came in the context of what has been agreed upon between the two sides, to hold continuous talks in order to strengthen bilateral relations, the ministry statement said Tuesday.

Araghachi's visit were the first concrete step taken by Iranians to restore bilateral ties following the May announcement by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that his country was ready to open its embassy in Cairo as soon as Egypt agreed to do the same in Tehran.

Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem however believe that the two countries still are not close to renewing diplomatic ties.

Tehran cut diplomatic ties after Cairo signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Relations further deteriorated when Egypt backed Iraq during the 1980-1988 Gulf War. Since then, the two countries have had limited diplomatic contacts.

Egypt has repeatedly demanded Iran take down a large mural of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's assassin, Khaled el-Islambouli, and change the name of a street honoring him.

Several times over the last few years, Tehran has it would change the street name but to this day the image of el-Islambouli shouting behind bars marked with a Star of David looms down over the street bearing his name.

On Friday, Aboul Gheit heads to New York for a series of U.N.-related meetings and he said he might meet with Iranian ForeignMinister Manouchehr Mottaki while there.

It appears that the sudden impulse to renew diplomatic ties between the two nations was triggered by the diplomatic meetings between the U.S. and Iran over Iraqi security in Baghdad earlier this year.

A renewal of the diplomatic ties would have a vast strategic significance, turning Iran into a "legitimate" state in the Arab world at a time when Tehran is facing intense international pressure.

Furthermore, the renewal of ties with Egypt would signal that Iran does not mind that the country has signed a peace agreement with Israel.