Iran is “closer than ever” to the ability to build a nuclear bomb, Israel said on Thursday, as a new UN report said Tehran has begun installing next-generation equipment at one of its main nuclear plants.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s report said Iran started installing new and advanced centrifuges at Natanz, which would enable it to speed up the enrichment of uranium.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the report was “severe,” and “proves Iran is continuing to rapidly advance to the red line that the prime minister drew at his speech in the United Nations.”
“Iran is closer than ever today to obtaining enriched material for a nuclear bomb,” the statement read.
In a September address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu called for a “clear red line” to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb.
He used a red marker pen to draw a line through a cartoon diagram of a bomb to illustrate what the international community’s limit for Iran’s uranium enrichment program should be.
He said Iran had 70 percent of the necessary level of uranium enrichment for a bomb and warned that at the current pace, the Islamic republic could have nearly all the material needed to create a first bomb by summer.
Thursday’s statement noted that “preventing nuclear arms from Iran will be the first topic Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will discuss with US President Barack Obama,” expected in Israel in March.
Israel, along with the United States and much of the West, believes Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, something Tehran strongly denies.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole, albeit undeclared, nuclear power, believes Iran must be prevented from reaching military nuclear capabilities at any cost and refuses to rule out military intervention to that end.