WASHINGTON — Iran is moving “closer and closer” to building a nuclear weapon and Israel may have to act before the United States does, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday.
“They’re edging up to the red line. They haven’t crossed it yet,” Netanyahu said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.”
“They’re getting closer and closer to the bomb. And they have to be told in no uncertain terms that that will not be allowed to happen.”
Netanyahu went on to say that Israel had a more narrow timetable than Washington, implying it may have to take unilateral action to halt Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
“Our clocks are ticking at a different pace. We’re closer than the United States. We’re more vulnerable. And therefore, we’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does,” he said.
Netanyahu said Tehran has been building “faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate — that is, within a few weeks.”
Netanyahu said Iran’s nuclear policies were unlikely to change under its next president, moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani, who will assume power on August 3.
“He’s criticizing his predecessor (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) for being a wolf in wolf’s clothing. His strategy is be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Smile and build a bomb,” Netanyahu said.
He urged the United States to make clear to Rowhani that it will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon, and that military force “is truly on the table.”
“We’ve spoken many times, President Obama and I, about the need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said.
“What is important is to convey to them — especially after the election — (is) that (the) policy will not change,” he said.
“If sanctions don’t work, they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action — that’s the only thing that will get their attention,” he added.
Iran for years has been at loggerheads with world powers over its nuclear drive, which Western nations believe is aimed at developing an atomic weapon capability.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, but the sanctions imposed over the standoff have isolated it internationally.
An Israeli official warned, meanwhile, that Iran could try and strike a deal ahead of a meeting Tuesday of six world power to discuss Tehran’s nuclear drive.
Tehran could propose “a temporary cessation” of their uranium enrichment or even “possibly converting some of the 20 percent enriched uranium to a lower level” in return for a “partial lifting of sanctions,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“This is an insignificant and meaningless concession,” he said, calling it “another example of the deliberate policy of the Iranian regime to deceive the international community”.
“Israel will totally oppose such an Iranian idea, and we will reject all proposals that do not include the following: a complete cessation of all uranium enrichment; the removal from Iran of all enriched materials; the closure of the illicit underground facility in Qom; and the total cessation of work at the plutonium reactor,” the official added.
Netanyahu declined to comment on reports that Israel had carried out air strikes on July 5 near the Syrian port city of Latakia to destroy Russian-supplied anti-ship missiles.
“Oh God, Every time something happens in the Middle East Israel is most often accused. And I’m not in the habit of saying what we did or we didn’t do,” he said.
“My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah and other terror groups,” he said, referring to the Lebanese militant group fighting alongside Syrian government forces.
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