Iranian missiles can reach Israeli nuclear sites and Tehran will respond firmly to any attack, a top commander said on Wednesday as Western powers urged Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
Israel, like the United States, has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end the row over the Islamic Republic's nuclear plans.
"Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran has missiles with the range of 2,000 km (1,250 miles), and based on that all Israeli land including that regime's nuclear facilities are in the range of our missile capabilities," the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, said.
"The doctrine of our system is defensive, but in the case of any action by enemies, including the Zionist regime, we will respond firmly using missiles and deter attacks," he said in comments carried by the ISNA news agency.
Israel, believed to be the only Middle East state with a nuclear arsenal, has described Iran's nuclear ambitions as a threat to its existence.
Israeli and Western officials accuse Iran of seeking to build atomic bombs. Tehran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity not making bombs.
Iran has in the past warned that it would strike Israel and U.S. bases if it was attacked, though Jafari said on Wednesday that neither the United States nor the Israeli military "had the ability" to strike Iran.
Military analysts say Iranian missiles often draw on technology from North Korea or other countries and also say it is unclear how accurate that Iranian weaponry was.
Negotiation on “equal footing”
Meanwhile an Iranian envoy on Wednesday held out the prospect of a breakthrough in any talks about Tehran's nuclear work and other security issues if governments negotiate on an "equal footing" and without preconditions.
Underscoring a U.S. turnabout from a policy of isolating Iran, Washington and five other big powers said on Tuesday they wanted direct talks with Iran to ease a deadlock over its refusal to halt nuclear work and open up to U.N. inspectors.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya aired on Wednesday nuclear weapons pose a security threat to the region and that this is something the U.S., Egypt, the Gulf countries and Jordan will take measures to curtail.
Also British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Iran to cease its nuclear threats and rejoin the world community.
"And our shared message to Iran is simple -- we are ready for you to rejoin the world community," Brown said in a landmark speech to the U.S. Congress.
"But first, you must cease your threats and suspend your nuclear program. And we will work tirelessly with all those in the international community who are ready to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation."
"(It) is Iran that is inviting others to come without preconditions," Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Agency, told reporters outside a meeting of the U.N. nuclear monitor's 35-nation board of governors.
"We do not consider anybody, any of the parties as a super power... If this mentality is changed and they understand that they are on equal footing and come in a civilized manner... then there will be a breakthrough," Soltanieh said.
But he warned that Western nations behind sanctions on Iran would have to respect its "inalienable right" to a peaceful nuclear program if negotiations were to be fruitful.
Iran says it is refining uranium only for a civilian nuclear program to generate electricity. But its record of nuclear secrecy and limits on IAEA non-proliferation inspections has stirred Western suspicions of an illicit quest for atom bombs.