In an interview with German television on December 11, Olmert said Iran has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and accused Tehran of trying to make nuclear weapons.
Seeking to draw a distinction with Iran, Olmert listed Israel alongside nuclear powers the United States, France, and Russia.
"Iran openly, explicitly, and publicly threatens to whip Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"
An Israeli spokesman later said Olmert did not mean to say that Israel has nuclear weapons, but instead had meant to describe America, France, Israel, and Russia as democracies, in contrast to Iran, which the spokesman described as an "extremist theological regime."
Israel is widely believed to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but has never confirmed or denied this.
(compiled from agency reports)
DECLARED NUCLEAR-WEAPONS COUNTRIES:
country warheads (est.) date of first test
United States 10,500 1945
Russia 18,000 1949
United Kingdom 200 1952
France 350 1960
China 400 1964
India 60-90 1974
Pakistan 28-48 1998
North Korea 0-18 2006
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, but it has not declared itself a nuclear-armed country.
South Africa constructed six uranium bombs but voluntarily dismantled them.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine all gave up the nuclear weapons that were on their territory when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.