Israel PM warns about Iran on navy tour

AP News
Posted: Nov 17, 2009 11:22 AM

Underscoring Israel's military might, Israel's prime minister warned about the dangers of a nuclear Iran Tuesday after visiting a submarine believed capable of carrying nuclear-tipped missiles and a ship used to seize weapons Israel says were being sent to Lebanese foes by Iran.

"The threat that Iran poses is very grave for the state of Israel, for peace in the Middle East and the whole world," Netanyahu said aboard the missile ship INS Eilat.

"Without any doubt, we are the first target, but not the last," he said.

Iran denies its nuclear program is designed to build bombs, but Israel and the West suspect that it is.

Israeli leaders fear their country could be a target for an Iranian nuclear weapon and have not ruled out a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has made references to Israel's destruction.

The presence of Iranian proxies on Israel's northern and southern borders _ Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip _ have only expanded the threat from Tehran.

Last month, the INS Eilat led a raid on a cargo vessel that Israel says was bound for Hezbollah with missiles, anti-tank weapons, grenades and ammunition. Hezbollah denied the arms were meant for them.

The submarine that Netanyahu visited was one of three German-built, Dolphin-class vessels that foreign media reports have said can carry missiles with nuclear warheads. Israel has ordered two more such subs.

Israel has never confirmed its submarines have nuclear capabilities, just as it never has confirmed media reports that it possesses a stockpile of nuclear bombs.

After complimenting the sailors for their hard work, Netanyahu got off the INS Eilat and stepped onto a dinghy to visit the navy base whose elite commandos captured the Francop arms vessel off the Cyprus coast earlier this month.

The waters were choppy and Netanyahu briefly wobbled, a pained look crossing his face. Aides rushed to help and a bodyguard placed his arms around the Israeli leader to help keep him steady.