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CAIRO - Iran and Arab states on Wednesday seized on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statement implying that Israel has nuclear weapons, calling it proof of a regional threat and demanding UN action.

On Monday Olmert appeared to admit -- in breach of the Jewish state's decades-long policy of ambiguity -- that Israel possessed such weapons.

Iran called his comments a confession and demanded action from the United Nations.

"This confession shows the real threat to security and stability in the Middle East, and it shows this regime's evil plans to carry out threats, a terror strategy and continued occupation," foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Hosseini said.

"It is extremely necessary to adopt fast and efficient solutions on the UN Security Council and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and other regional organisations to combat these clear threats," he said.

Israel, which Iran does not recognise, is Tehran's arch-foe. It has repeatedly called for UN action over Iran's nuclear programme and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israel comments.

The Arab League urged the international community and the Security Council to exert pressure on Israel "to open its nuclear facilities in a transparent manner."

"It is essential that Israel comply with international resolutions," Mohammed Sobeih, the assistant secretary general in charge of Palestinian affairs, told reporters in Cairo.

The 22-member body called on "all states which offered assistance to Israel, particularly on the issues of uranium and heavy water, to speak out without delay," he said.

"Everyone knows that Israel possesses weapons of mass destruction which could reach as far as 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles), and all Arab capitals are within this range," Sobeih added.

Egypt's opposition Muslim Brothers, who control a fifth of parliament, reacted angrily and demanded an urgent parliament session attended by Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif to discuss the issue.

Israel's nuclear arsenal "is a danger to Egypt's national security and can turn the entire region into a volcano," Hussein Mohammed, deputy head of the Islamist movement's parliamentary group, said in a statement.

On Tuesday the Gulf Cooperation Council -- grouping Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- demanded that sanctions be imposed on Israel.

GCC Secretary General Abderrahman al-Attiya called on the United States not to apply a policy of "double standards" and to "work for the application (against Israel) of the resolutions of international legitimacy and of Chapter VII."

Chapter VII of the UN charter deals with action the Security Council might take regarding threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.

As a first step, it says the council may call for member states to impose sanctions, including complete or partial interruption of economic relations and the severance of diplomatic relations.

If such measures fail, military action can be called for.

In a Monday interview with German television, Olmert listed Israel as a country with nuclear weapons.

"We never threatened any nation with annihilation," he said.

"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as France, America, Russia and Israel?" he asked.

Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin was quick to deny that the premier admitted Israel had nuclear weapons, saying "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the region."

12/13/2006 18:35 GMT

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