New twist claimed in Iran standoff

Feb. 26, 2007 at 8:00 AM
TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Three Arab states have given the green light for Israeli warplanes to transit their airspace if necessary for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, a Kuwaiti newspaper says.

Al-Siyasa, quoted in a report by the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, identified the three states as Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

The report said a diplomat from one of the Gulf countries visiting Washington had told U.S. officials they would not object to Israeli planes flying over their countries if the Israeli had to come at Iran using a circuitous route.

The most direct route would be to fly across Iraq, and Britain's Daily Telegraph on Saturday reported that Israel was negotiating that possibility through the United States. Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, however, denied the report and asserted Israel did not plan to attack Iran, which is believed developing nuclear weapons.

Ha'artez said the Kuwaiti newspaper also quoted an unidentified British diplomat as saying NATO leaders were urging Turkey to open its airspace.

The report comes amid growing tensions and speculation accompanying the release of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran was stepping up its nuclear fuel enrichment program and not temporarily freezing it as demanded by a U.N. Security Council resolution. Iran claims its nuclear progrm is for peaceful energy uses and adamantly refuses to freeze it as a condition for negotiations with Western counties and has dismissed the idea of abandoning it. The United States and others, however, believe the program is a cover for development of a nuclear weapon capability.

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