JERUSALEM - Israel's military chief said Monday that all options remain "on the table" in dealing with Iran's nuclear program, indicating that the Jewish state has not abandoned the possibility of a military strike.
Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi's comments came a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Israeli officials assured him Israel was not planning to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. A senior Israeli government official also said the country's policy has not changed.
Israel accuses Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. While Tehran has denied the charge, it continues to threaten Israel with harsh statements while developing medium-range missiles capable.
Speaking to Army Radio, Ashkenazi said the best way to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat was through sanctions against the regime. But he said Israel was preparing for every option to make sure the Islamic regime did not go nuclear.
"The possibility of Iran becoming a nuclear power is a threat not only to the state of Israel, but for the Middle East and the entire free world," he said. "Israel has the right to defend itself, and all the options are on the table."
On Sunday, in an interview with CNN television, Medvedev indicated that Israeli President Shimon Peres assured him Israel would not launch a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, responded Monday, saying that Medvedev may have misunderstood or misinterpreted Peres.
"In any event, he is certainly not authorized to speak for us, and there is no change whatsoever in Israel's policy," Ayalon told Army Radio. "President Medvedev, with all due respect, will not decide what Israel's policy is ... and this is not just Israeli policy, but the international policy - that Iran is forbidden to go nuclear, period."
Meanwhile, Iran's president said Monday he is proud to stoke international outrage with his latest remarks denying the Holocaust. Asked Monday about widespread condemnation of his Friday remarks, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: "The anger of the world's professional killers is (a source of) pride for us," according to state news agency IRNA.