Senior U.S. Official: Israel Will Not Attack Iran's Nuclear Program

Olmert will discuss the issue with Bush in Monday's meeting; Palestinian unity gov't also on the agenda.

Israel will not strike Iranian nuclear facilities, a senior American official said Tuesday.

He said that Israel understands that the solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis has to be reached through diplomatic means. He said that destroying Iran's nuclear plants would be far more complicated than Israel's attack on the Iraqi facilities at Osirak in 1981, as in this case, there are more than 200 facilities.

Even if not everyone shared this conclusion, he said, it would be difficult to guarantee that Iranian nuclear program would be destroyed, adding that there is nothing worse than an unsuccessful military operation.

The official also said that the subject of Iran's nuclear program and efforts to impose sanctions on the Tehran regime would top the agenda at a meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington next Monday.

Also on the agenda for the meeting between the two leaders are the current attempts to form a Palestinian unity government.

According to the official, the U.S supports the establishment of a government of technocrats in the Palestinian Authority that would accept the principles presented by the Quartet - recognizing Israel, respecting prior agreements, and denouncing violence.

Such a government would be an acceptable partner for Israel in implementing the road map, the official said.

The U.S. government expects Israel to authorize a series of moves to strengthen Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. According to previous reports, these include the transfer of thousands of rifles from Egypt to Abbas' Presidential Guard for the purpose of deploying the Palestinian Bader Division from Jordan to the Gaza Strip.

The official said the U.S. would like the division to be deployed prior to Olmert's meeting with Bush.

The U.S. believes the solution to Gaza's terrorism problem can be reached politically as well as militarily, the official said. Thus, the Palestinians' humanitarian distress must be relieved to prevent a rise in support for Hamas and terrorism.

According to the official, the issue of negotiations between Israel and Syria is not on the agenda for the Olmert-Bush meeting. He said that Syria knows what it must do for the U.S. to treat its peace statements seriously.

The U.S. understands Israel's need to continue Israel Defense Forces intelligence gathering overflights into Lebanon to collect, the official said.