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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's former army chief says Iranian officials came to him for advice on heading off an attack on their nuclear facilities, and he in effect advised them to take a hostage — Israel.
Retired Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg said he suggested their government "make it clear that if anything happens to Iran, if anyone attacks it — it doesn't matter who it is or how it is attacked — that Iran's answer will be to hit Israel; the only target will be Israel."
Since Beg spoke in an interview with The Associated Press, echoes of his thinking have been heard in Iran, though whether they result directly from his advice isn't known.
the AP interview that took place several weeks before these threats were exchanged, Beg said a delegation from the Iranian Embassy in Pakistan had come to his office in January, seeking advice as Western pressure mounted on Iran to abandon its nuclear effort. Beg said he offered lessons learned from his experience dealing with India's nuclear threat.
He said he told the Iranians, whom he did not identify, that Pakistan had suspected India of collaborating with Israel in planning an attack on its nuclear facilities. By then, Pakistan had the bomb too. But both countries had adopted a strategy of ambiguity, he said, and Pakistan sent an emissary to India to warn that no matter who attacked it, Pakistan would retaliate against India.
"We told India frankly that this is the threat we perceive and this is the action we are taking and the action we will take. It was a real deterrent," he recalled telling the Iranians.
In the AP interview, Beg detailed nearly 20 years of Iranian approaches to obtain conventional arms and then technology for nuclear weapons. He described an Iranian visit in 1990, when he was army chief of staff.
"They didn't want the technology. They asked: 'Can we have a bomb?' My answer was: By all means you can have it but you must make it yourself. Nobody gave it to us."