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JERUSALEM - Israel's public security minister warned Saturday that a U.S. intelligence report that said Iran is no longer developing nuclear arms could lead to a regional war that would threaten the Jewish state.
In his remarks - Israel's harshest criticism yet of the U.S. report - Avi Dichter said the assessment also cast doubt on American intelligence in general.
Dichter cautioned that a refusal to recognize Iran's intentions to build weapons of mass destruction could lead to armed conflict in the Middle East.
He compared the possibility of such fighting to a surprise attack on Israel in 1973 by Arab states.
"The American misconception concerning Iran's nuclear weapons is liable to lead to a regional Yom Kippur (war) where Israel will be among the countries that are threatened," Dichter said in a speech in a suburb south of Tel Aviv, according to his spokesman, Mati Gil. "Something went wrong in the American blueprint for analyzing the severity of the Iranian nuclear threat."
Dichter didn't elaborate but seemed to imply that a world that let its guard down regarding Iran would be more vulnerable to attack by the Islamic regime.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has disputed the U.S. intelligence assessment, saying that Iran continues its efforts to obtain components necessary to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran still poses a major threat to the West and the world must stop it, Olmert said.
Israel has for years been warning that Iran is working on nuclear weapons and backed the United States in its international efforts to exert pressure on Iran to stop the program. Israel considers Iran a significant threat because of its nuclear ambitions, its long-range missile program and repeated calls by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the disappearance of Israel.
Iran says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.
Israel will work to change the American intelligence agencies' view of Iran, said Dichter, a former chief of Israel's Shin Bet secret service agency.
[Last modified December 16, 2007, 02:06:27]