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Israeli minister speaks of attacking Iran

Israel will attack Iran if it doesn't abandon its nuclear program, a Cabinet minister hoping to replace embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted Friday as saying.

Shaul Mofaz, a former chief of staff and defense minister, also said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel's destruction, “will disappear before Israel does,” the Yediot Ahronot daily reported.

Mofaz's spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment on the remarks, which were more explicit than what Olmert has said.

Olmert has gone no further than hinting Israel was prepared to use force against Iranian nuclear facilities, saying this week that “the Iranian threat must be stopped by all means.”

According to the newspaper report, Mofaz, who is now transportation minister, has concluded international sanctions haven't curbed Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

“If Iran continues its nuclear arms program, we will attack it,” he was quoted as saying. “The sanctions aren't effective. There will be no choice but to attack Iran to halt the Iranian nuclear program.”

There is a precedent for Israeli military action: In 1981, Israeli planes destroyed an unfinished Iraqi reactor.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and designed to produce energy.

In Washington this week, Iran dominated Olmert's meetings with President Bush, the prime minister told reporters.

Bush sought to reassure Israelis who are worried about the U.S. commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, saying, “It's very important for the world to take the Iranian threat quite seriously, which the United States does.”

Mofaz's bellicose comments on Iran coincide with the launching of his campaign to replace Olmert as head of the Kadima Party if a corruption probe pushes Olmert out of office. A recent poll of Kadima members showed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni besting Mofaz in a party leadership race.