VIENNA, June 22 (UPI) -- Mohammed ElBaradei, the United Nations' top nuclear weapons official, says a military strike on Iran would turn the Mideast into a "ball of fire."
ElBaradei's warning came in an interview given Saturday to Al Arabiya Television, where he said, "In my opinion, any military strike -- as I mentioned -- is the worst thing that can happen now," CNN reported.
ElBaradei, director general of the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, responded to reports Israel had conducted a large-scale military exercise to simulate an attack on Iran's nuclear energy installations and laboratories, which it and the United States contend are providing cover for weapons development.
"It will make the Middle East turn into a ball of fire," ElBaradei said. "It is a lot worse than having sanctions. A military strike will lead Iran, even if it plans today to manufacture a nuclear weapon, to establish a crash course to speed the process to have the weapon with the blessing of all Iranians, even those living in the West."
A U.S. military official confirmed reports Israel conducted a major aerial military exercise over the eastern Mediterranean Sea on June 2, CNN reported Friday.