Israel on Saturday downplayed apparent differences with the United States over estimates of the amount of time it could take Iran to manufacture a nuclear bomb.
US President Barack Obama had told the Associated Press that Iran was “a year or more away” from getting a nuclear bomb, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had warned that Iran could jump across an Israeli red line within “weeks.”
But Israeli officials said Saturday that Netanyahu was not referring to the time it would take Iran to manufacture an atomic bomb, but how long it would take to complete the necessary uranium enrichment for one.
“If Iran decides to complete enriching the uranium, it could do so within weeks of its decision,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
Tehran has adamantly denied it is seeking nuclear weapons, insisting that its enrichment programme is for entirely peaceful purposes.
Obama, who spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a historic telephone call last week, and then hosted Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, said it remained to be seen if the Iranian president could follow through on his initiative to engage in dialogue.
Netanyahu warned in a speech to the United Nations that Israel would act alone militarily if necessary to defend itself from Iran’s nuclear programme, which it views as its greatest security threat.
The Israeli official noted that Netanyahu “does not rule out diplomatic talks with Iran, but insists that these negotiations lead to dismantling Iran’s ability to enrich uranium.”
Obama has said Iran must verifiably prove its intentions are peaceful in any deal that would ease US-led international sanctions.
The next round of talks with the so-called P5 +1 — the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — is scheduled to take place in Geneva later this month.