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Israel Denies Policy Change After Olmert Nuclear Arms Hint

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (file photo) (epa) December 12, 2006 -- Israeli officials are denying any change in policy after comments by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in which he appears to admit that Israel has nuclear weapons.

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)

Who's Got The Bomb?

Who's Got The Bomb?


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.