Israel's Netanyahu says Iran closer to nuclear 'red line'

WASHINGTON Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:53pm IST

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Abir Sultan/Pool

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem July 14, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Abir Sultan/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Iran was getting closer to the "red line" he set for its nuclear program and warned the international community not to be distracted by the crises in Syria and Egypt.

Tehran was continuing enrichment activities and building inter-continental ballistic missiles, which could give it a military nuclear capability, he said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

At the United Nations in September, Netanyahu drew a red line across a cartoon bomb to illustrate the point at which Iran will have amassed enough uranium to fuel one nuclear bomb. He said Iran could reach that threshold by mid-2013.

"They haven't yet reached it but they're getting closer to it and they have to be stopped," Netanyahu told CBS. He said the West's sanctions against Tehran needed to be intensified and backed up with the threat of a credible military option.

Netanyahu also said Iran was building faster centrifuges that could allow it to speed up its enrichment activities.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power, has issued veiled warnings for years that it might attack Iran if international sanctions and diplomacy fail to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Israel has long insisted on the need for a convincing military threat and setting clear lines beyond which Iran's nuclear activity should not advance.

"I think it's important to note that we (Israel) can't allow it to happen. 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 whether to stop Iran before the United States does," Netanyahu said.

The Israeli prime minister said he was concerned that the military conflict in Syria and the political crisis in Egypt had pushed the Iran nuclear issue lower on the international agenda.

"There are many important issues that we have to deal with and I have a sense that there is no sense of urgency on Iran and yet Iran is the most important and the most urgent matter of all," he said. (Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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