Israel's army says Iran is making swift progress toward developing a nuclear weapon.  An Israeli expert believes military action may be required to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

The Israeli army chief of staff says Iran could start enriching uranium by March and might be capable of producing nuclear weapons within three years. 

Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz spoke behind closed doors to parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.  His remarks were reported by the head of the committee.

Israel has expressed growing concern about Iran's nuclear program since late October, when the Iranian president publicly called for the Jewish state to be "wiped off the map."  In remarks Monday, Iran's leader reiterated his doubts that the Holocaust ever took place and he urged Muslim nations to take a more active approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli analyst Ephraim Inbar says Iran's radical regime is changing the strategic equation in the Middle East.

"The Iranians have long-range missiles that can reach Israel," he said.  "They are working on expanding the range of their missiles, and those weapons can be tipped with nuclear weapons.  I think this is a serious threat to the region."

Israel hopes the U.N. Security Council will take action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  But if diplomacy fails, Mr. Inbar says Israel and the U.S. should consider a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"With a sustained air campaign, as well as occasionally the use of special forces, this program can be stopped," he explained.

The Israeli air force destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.  Israel prefers that the U.S. would deal with Iran, but with America tied up in Iraq Israeli officials have not ruled out the military option.  They say Israel cannot allow Iran to acquire the atom bomb.