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Israel said to have nuke-loaded subs 


DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER A new report suggests Israel has the capability to launch nuclear weapons from its submarines - a development that could threaten U.S. and UN efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear programs.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Israeli scientists have modified cruise missiles supplied by the U.S. to carry nuclear warheads.

The Times reported that the information was confirmed by two Bush administration officials and one Israeli official.

While Israel has never acknowledged having a nuclear arsenal, it is considered an open secret that the country has somewhere between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons, which can be launched from the ground or air.

But the submarine nukes would mean Israel, which has 150 miles of coastline in the Mediterranean, can now strike from the sea as well.

Israel ordered three specialized submarines from Germany in the mid-1990s. The vessels were delivered about two years ago, according to the Times article.

The submarines were designed to carry U.S.-made Harpoon missiles, Israeli government officials confirmed.

However, they would not discuss what kind of warheads were in the missiles, the Times reported.

News of the submarine nukes comes at an especially sensitive time. Arab nations have begun openly criticizing the U.S. and the UN for refusing to acknowledge Israel's nuclear capabilities while putting pressure on Iran about its own.

"You are never going to be able to address the Iranian nuclear ambitions or the issue of Egypt's chemical weapons and possible biological weapons program without bringing Israel's nuclear program into the mix," Joseph Cirincione, director of the nonproliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Times.

"We tolerate nuclear weapons in Israel for the same reason we tolerate them in Britain and France," a senior U.S. official told the Times. "We don't regard Israel as a threat."

The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency has given Teheran an Oct. 31 deadline to accept full inspections and prove it has no nuclear arms program.

A failure to meet the deadline may lead the agency to present the matter to the UN's Security Council, which could result in international sanctions against Iran.

Originally published on October 12, 2003


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