Iranian army retracts Israel strike threat

Iran’s top army brass on Thursday retracted a threat made earlier this week that the Islamic republic would target Israel if it came under US attack over its nuclear programme.

According to General Alireza Afshar, a deputy chief of general staff in charge of propaganda, the warning made last week by a lower-ranking spokesman carries “no value in the eyes of the Iranian armed forces”.

On Tuesday a spokesman for Iranian war games held in April, Rear Admiral Mohammad Ebrahim Dehqani, told the ISNA news agency that “if America gets up to mischief, Israel will be our first target to hit”.

But Afshar said “his comments only represent his personal point of view.”

Tehran has been under international pressure to suspend its nuclear activities, which it insists are for civilian energy purposes but which some Western countries fear are aimed at manufacturing an atomic bomb.

US and European officials are pushing for a tough, binding UN resolution for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, which makes the fuel for civilian reactors but what can also be the explosive core of bombs.

Amid the stand-off, Iran has also upped its anti-Israel rhetoric, with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad notably declaring last October that the Jewish state should be “wiped off the map.”