Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Bunker Busters to Israel

The US is to sell 500 "bunker busters" bombs to Israel. Such bombs could be effective for use against Syria or Iran:

The United States plans to sell Israel $319 million worth of air-launched bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" able to penetrate Iran's underground nuclear facilities, Israeli security sources said on Tuesday.

The Haaretz newspaper quoted a Pentagon report as saying the planned procurement sought "to maintain Israel's qualitative advantage and advance U.S. strategic and tactical interests".

The U.S. embassy in Israel had no comment, referring queries to Washington. Israel's Defence Ministry also declined comment.

But a senior Israeli security source who confirmed the Haaretz story told Reuters: "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria."

Haaretz quoted Israeli government sources as saying the sale, including 4,500 other guided munitions, was not expected to go through until after the U.S. elections in November.

Earlier this month, Haaretz said Israel sought to obtain the U.S.-made, one-tonne "bunker buster" bombs for a possible future strike against arch-foe Iran's atomic development programme, which the Jewish state considers a strategic threat.

“This relationship has a long history. The United States has given Israel more advanced weapons than this,” a spokesman for Iran’s Defence Ministry said.

“This could be psychological warfare to test us,” he added.

Tehran denies hostile designs, saying its nuclear programme has peaceful purposes only. This week, it rejected international calls to comply with a U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency demand that it halt all uranium-enrichment activities.

Among the nuclear facilities that Iran has declared are uranium mines near the city of Yazd, and a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz incorporating large underground buildings that could accommodate thousands of gas centrifuges.

Western diplomats accuse Iran of having several undeclared facilities close to Tehran thought to be related to uranium enrichment, a process the United States and some other countries believe Tehran will use to produce fissile material for weapons.

The exiled Iranian opposition group known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says Iran is constructing numerous secret facilities under its Defence Ministry.


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