Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak is calling for significant sanctions against Iran, saying it is clear the country wants to be a nuclear weapons power.  Barak made the comments during a visit to Washington.

Israel sees Iran as an existential threat and has refused to rule out a preemptive military strike against the Islamic republic because of its nuclear program.

But Israel also says it favors the U.S. push for sanctions against Iran in an effort to convince the country to agree to international demands to halt its uranium enrichment program.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. "It is clear to us and I believe it will become more and more clear to others that Iran tries to defy, deceit and deter the whole world in regard to its nuclear ambitions," he said.

Barak spoke Friday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

He pointed to recent protests in Iran following disputed presidential elections as proof the grip of the government over the people is weakening.

He predicted the Iranian government is likely to fall, but said such an event could be many years away. "It is clear to me the clock toward the collapse of the regime works much slower than the clock which ticks toward Iran becoming a nuclear military power," he said.

The Israeli defense minister said the United Nations should impose what he called significant, effective sanctions on Tehran that set a time limit to compel Iran to stop enriching uranium.

He endorsed U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to line up members of the U.N. Security Council behind a new set of sanctions. "I feel that the administration is doing its utmost effort to deliver an effective set of sanctions.  We appreciate it and we hope it will be successful," he said.

Barak also meet Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who is pursuing a dual-track approach toward Iran. "We remain committed to a diplomatic, peaceful resolution.  But as the recent IAEA report makes clear, Iran is not living up to its responsibilities, and we are working with our partners in the international community to increase pressure on Iran to change course," she said.

Tehran has already faced three rounds of U.N. sanctions for refusing to stop enriching uranium, a process that can produce fuel for nuclear reactors and fissile material for an atomic bomb.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

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