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Iran attack to turn region into fireball: ElBaradei

Tehran threatens to fight back

The chief of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said in remarks aired on Friday that he would resign if there was a military strike on Iran, warning that any such attack would turn the region into a "fireball".

"I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time ... it would make me unable to continue my work," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told AlArabiya television in an interview.

"A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball," he said, emphasizing that any attack would only make the Islamic Republic more determined to obtain nuclear power.

"If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West."

ElBaradei’s comments came after the New York Times reported that U.S. officials said Israel carried out a large military exercise early June that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. The newspaper said Israeli officials would not discuss the exercise.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said Friday said Washington favored diplomacy in the Iranian nuclear crisis for now.

"We're in the phase of diplomacy, we want a diplomatic settlement of this issue," Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters when asked to react to the NY Times report.

"I saw the article in paper today," Khalilzad said. "You know our view with regard to Iran, which is that it would be unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons."

"Right now we are in the phase of diplomacy, that's what we are pushing for, we want a diplomatic solution to this problem. The ball is frankly in Iran's court," he added.

Iran, however, warned its arch-enemy Israel Friday of a "strong blow" if it resorts to force.

"If enemies especially Israelis and their supporters in the United States would want to use a language of force, they should rest assured that they will receive a strong blow in the mouth," senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said in his Friday prayers sermon.