By Damien McElroy – Telegraph.co.uk July 1, 2008
Shaul Mofaz, Israel's deputy prime minister and a former army commander, told a Washington forum that Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon was "unacceptable".
Mr Mofaz is a leading candidates to succeed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when the ruling Kadima party holds elections in September.
"It is an existential threat," he said. "We have to make sure we are prepared for every option. We don't want war, we want peace but we will not let the second Holocaust take place."
Mr Mofaz's military credentials and his close relationship with Mr Olmert put him at the heart of Israel's planning for a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear research facilities.
Israeli officials have hinted that the country will have a short window of opportunity to attack Iran before the end of the year.
Western governments backed down on demands for Iran to give a definite response to an offer of substantial aid in return for renouncing its suspect nuclear programme.
Officials in Washington and Brussels said a failure by Iran to meet the deadline, two weeks after historic talks in Geneva, would not disrupt efforts to strike a deal with the Islamic state.
America sent State Department official, William Burns to Geneva for the first direct negotiations with Iran on the nuclear impasse but the indications are that the Islamic republic remains defiant, even to the point of missing the deadline by a short period.
"One should not focus too much on Saturday," an EU official said. "If it's not Saturday but next week, we'll not make a big fuss about it. What matters is to get a clear answer quickly, in the very coming days."
Although Iran denies it is pursuing nuclear weapons, Tehran has refused to curtail its experiments despite a generous compensation package in which donor countries would supply nuclear energy facilities.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned the country will not forsake its right to undertake independent research into nuclear production, and a leading politician yesterday condemned the West for "monopolising" nuclear technology.
Meanwhile the International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday approved safeguards for a shipments of nuclear fuel to India.
The development paves the way for a historic deal between India and the US on sharing nuclear technology, which is desperately needed to fuel India's growing economy.
Last updated 04/08/2008