Israel has long alleged that a nuclear Iran would pose an existential ‘threat’ to Tel Aviv, accusing Tehran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of seeking weapons of mass destruction.
The UN nuclear watchdog said in its latest report on Iran that it could not find any ‘components of a nuclear weapon’ or ‘related nuclear physics studies’ in the country.
In a Haaretz interview published on Sunday, Kouchner said a nuclear weapon would not ‘give any immunity to Iran’.
“Israel has always said it will not wait for the bomb to be ready,” he added.
The outspoken French minister, who is on a two-day visit to the Middle East, said Tel Aviv would ‘eat’ Iran before the ‘bomb’ is ready.
He later released a statement saying that he had been misquoted by the paper and that he had used the word ‘hit’ not ‘eat’.
Kouchner, however, confirmed that he did ‘indeed evoke the possibility of Israeli strikes to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon’.
Kouchner’s remarks are in line with French President Nicolas Sarkozy warning in early September that the pursuance of a nuclear program by Iran could lead to an Israel-waged war on the country.
“We could find one morning that Israel has struck (Iran),” the French president said, adding that no one would question the legitimacy of such an act of aggression.
Iran says its nuclear activities are directed at the civilian application of the technology, such as generating electricity for its growing population.
During his late September visit to New York, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that ‘the era of nuclear bombs has ended’, stressing that weapons of mass destruction have no place on Iran’s defensive doctrine.
Israel, meanwhile, is widely believed to have acquired some 200-300 nuclear warheads. Former US president Jimmy Carter confirmed in late May that Israel is the possessor of the sole nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.
Iran, the Arab League and the one-hundred-eighteen Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members, sought to put the dossier of ‘Israel’s nuclear capabilities’ on the agenda of the annual UN nuclear watchdog meeting in Vienna.
In a vote on Saturday, Israel – backed by the US and EU – managed to evade a link between its nuclear program to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.