Israeli PM sends a "nuclear message" to Iran

Israeli Premier, Ehud Olmert, is on a three-day European tour aimed at encouraging countries to take a tougher stance to block Iran's nuclear ambitions. Mr Olmert said Iran aspired to have nuclear weapons like the U.S., France, Israel and Russia.

He is coming under increasing criticism following the remark that seemed to confirm his country does have nuclear arms capability.

The country's media have called the remark a “nuclear slip” of the tongue and are now making suggestions whether or not the Israeli Prime Minister publicly admitted his country has the bomb.

Government aides have been quick to assure Israel's traditional policy of nuclear ambiguity has not changed. The Prime Minister also claims nothing he said violated the Israeli position.

However, some think Mr Olmert’s “slip of the tongue” was aimed at sending a clear message to Iran.

The only sign of Israel's nuclear project was revealed a quarter of a century ago when a former nuclear technician revealed details of it to the British press. He was subsequently imprisoned for 18 years.

The Prime Minister's comment was made during an interview with German television.

He was asked if the fact that Israel possessed nuclear power weakened the West's position against Iran. Olmert responded by saying that unlike Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be wiped off the map, Israel has never threatened any country with anything

“Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to write Israel off the map. Can you say this is the same level when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons as America, France, Israel, Russia?” he asked.

Mr Olmert later said Israel would not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

His remarks have drawn fire from politicians across the political spectrum and provoked calls for his resignation. However, for ordinary Israelis, what he said was nothing new.