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Israeli Defense Chief Says Iran Exaggerating Nuclear Progress

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Israel's defense minister has dismissed as exaggerations Iran's latest announcements of major advancements in the Islamic republic’s nuclear program.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio, however, that Israel continues to believe that Iran’s nuclear pursuits could present a threat to the Jewish-led state.

Barak said the February 15 announcements by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad -- about Iran's first domestically made nuclear fuel rods and new advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium -- were aimed at trying to make the world believe it is already too late for any international action to stop the Iranian nuclear drive.

Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, and its ally the United States have not ruled out military action to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Meanwhile, Thailand's police chief says Iranians who were arrested after explosions at their rented home in Bangkok were apparently plotting to attack Israeli diplomats.

Prewpan Dhamapong's comments come after the Israeli Ambassador to Thailand Itzhak Shoham said the homemade "sticky" bombs found at the blast site were similar to devices used against Israeli embassy targets in India and Georgia earlier this week.

Israel alleges that Iran was behind the attacks, but Tehran has denied any role.

Thai authorities arrested two Iranian men on February 14 in Bangkok after a series of explosions.

They have also requested that neighboring Malaysia send a third Iranian suspect, who was arrested late on February 15, back to Bangkok.

A fourth suspect is said to be on the run.

Compiled from agency reports

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