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Israeli Official: Time to Set Ultimatum for Iran

  • VOA News

Minister Yuval Steinitz is seen in a January 2, 2013, file photo.

Minister Yuval Steinitz is seen in a January 2, 2013, file photo.

A senior Israeli official has called on world powers to threaten Iran with military action if it refuses to curb sensitive nuclear work within a "few weeks, [or] a month."

Speaking to Israel's Army Radio on Sunday, Strategic Affairs and Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said it is time for Iran to face a "military threat, a form of red line or unequivocal ultimatum" from the entire world, particularly the United States and the West.

Israel, the United States and their allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian program, a charge Tehran denies. Israeli and U.S. officials repeatedly have warned they could take military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program as a last resort, if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

But, Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence and wants Western powers to take a tougher stance against Tehran.

Steinitz accused Iran of stalling in its latest nuclear talks with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, who want Tehran to stop production of highly-enriched uranium that has civilian and military uses.

E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the six powers, said the two sides remained "far apart" on Saturday after two days of meetings in Almaty, Kazakhstan. They also were unable to agree on when to hold another round of negotiations.

Iran's nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili insisted that the six powers recognize an Iranian "right" to enrich uranium and offer greater relief from economic sanctions in return for any enrichment slowdown.

Steinitz said the Iranians are "laughing their way" to a nuclear bomb as diplomacy continues.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Iran against playing for time as he held a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey.

"You can't just delay and talk for the sake of talking. So we would repeat to Iran: it's our desire to have a diplomatic solution. But this choice really lies in the hands of Iranians. If you have a peaceful program for nuclear power, as a number of nations do, it is not hard to prove to the world that it is peaceful."

Kerry also said Washington is willing to be "patient" with diplomacy and recognizes that Iran's upcoming presidential election in June "complicates" the political choices facing Iranian leaders.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.