Israel Seeks 500 US
Bunker Buster Bombs

By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The United States plans to sell Israel $319 million (178 million pounds) worth of air-launched bombs, including 500 "bunker busters" potentially able to hit Iran's underground nuclear facilities, Israeli security sources have said.
In June, the Pentagon said it was considering the sale to Israel of 500 BLU-109 warheads, which can penetrate five metres (15 feet) of fortifications, in an arms package meant to "contribute significantly to U.S. strategic and tactical objectives".
U.S. and Israeli officials had no immediate comment.
Israeli security sources said the procurement would go through. "This is not the sort of ordnance needed for the Palestinian front. Bunker busters could serve Israel against Iran, or possibly Syria," an Israeli source said on Tuesday.
Haaretz daily, citing Israeli government sources, said the sale would take place after the U.S. elections in November.
Earlier this month, Haaretz said Israel sought "bunker buster" bombs for a possible future strike against Iran's atomic programme, which the Jewish state considers a strategic threat.
"Our response to any invasive measure will be massive," Massoud Jazaeri, spokesman for Iran's Revolutionary Guard, told Reuters in Tehran.
Iran, which does not recognise Israel's right to exist, says its nuclear programme has only peaceful purposes. This week it rejected international calls to comply with the U.N. nuclear watchdog's demand to halt all its uranium-enrichment activities.
An Iranian Defence Ministry spokesman said the disclosure of a U.S.-Israeli deal could be "psychological warfare to test us ... This relationship has a long history. The United States has given Israel more advanced weapons than this."
Acquiring BLU-109s, which are mounted on satellite-guided bombs, would boost Israel's capabilities, foreign experts say.
"Israel very likely manufactures its own bunker busters, but they are not as robust as the 2,000-pound (910 kg) BLUs," Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, told Reuters.
Among the nuclear facilities that Iran has declared are uranium mines near the city of Yazd, and a uranium-enrichment plant in Natanz incorporating large underground buildings that could accommodate thousands of gas centrifuges.
Western diplomats accuse Iran of having several undeclared facilities close to Tehran thought to be related to uranium enrichment, which can produce fissile material for weapons.
The exiled Iranian opposition group known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) says Iran is constructing numerous secret facilities under its Defence Ministry.
Israel, which is widely assumed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed nation, wants to stop Iran going atomic, but officials say diplomatic pressure on Tehran is the best method.
"I think (military action) should be a last, last, last resort. Unlike Iraq and North Korea, there is at least some chance of bringing about an undermining of the Velayat-e Faqih's authority," former CIA director R. James Woolsey told Reuters this month, referring to Iran's ruling Islamic clerics.
Convinced Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, Israel bombed Iraq's Osiraq reactor in 1981. While the move drew international censure, eventually many Western experts saw it as an important blow to Saddam's strategic weapons capabilities.



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