Iran has threatened to retaliate “with full force” to any attack on its enrichment facilities

By: The Telegraph, Adrian Blomfield, Middle East Correspondent

Amid rising concern of a looming military confrontation, the Islamist regime gave warning of the consequences that would be unleashed by the use of force to end its nuclear ambitions.

Eshagh al-Habib, Tehran’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said that Iran “is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against ant attack”. Insisting that Iran was pursuing nuclear power solely for peaceful ends, he denounced Israel as a regime “based on terrorism”.

Mr Habib’s outburst came after the Israeli prime minister urged the UN General Assembly on Thursday to set “red lines” to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear bomb.

Mr Netanyahu claimed that Iran would be ready to move into the final stage of uranium enrichment by as early as next spring and demanded the Tehran be told that such a move would trigger a military response.

He gave warning that if Iran was not halted before it completed its present, penultimate phase of enrichment, it would be too late to stop Iran becoming a nuclear power. But Mr Habib denounced Mr Netanyahu’s claims as “baseless” and accused him of hypocrisy because Israel is believed to be a non-declared nuclear power.

Although the United States is reluctant to impose red lines there are growing fears in Washington that Israel will take military action of its own if it does not. Mr Habib, whose warnings echo previous Iranian threats, did not specify how Tehran would respond to an attack.

Many observers expect that it would put pressure on Hizbollah and Hamas, the two Islamist groups it has long sponsored, to fire rockets into Israel from their bases in Lebanon and Gaza. Hamas, however, has distanced itself from Iran in recent months as it seeks to realign itself with the Muslim Brotherhood, its ideological ally, since it came to power in Egypt.

Hizbollah would be more likely to heed Iran’s call, but even that is not guaranteed given that risks of incurring a heavy defeat in the face of an Israeli counter-attack.

But Iran also has long-range missiles of its own which could conceivably reach Israel. It could also strike at US ships and military bases in the Persian Gulf.

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