Israel: Iran Must Face Nuclear Ultimatum

Israel's strategic affairs minister on Sunday called on the international community to slap Iran with a firm ultimatum of "a few weeks, a month" to stop enriching uranium or face a possible military strike.

Speaking to army radio, Yuval Steinitz, who also holds the intelligence portfolio, said the latest inconclusive round of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers proved that the Islamic republic was stalling.

"The Iranians are playing games and laughing all the way to the bomb," he said.

"It is time to present the Iranians with a military threat or some kind of red line, an unequivocal ultimatum from the entire world, (which must be delivered) by the United States and the West," Steinitz said.

He said the international community should give Tehran "a few weeks, a month" in which to cease enriching uranium, but did not elaborate on what should be the consequence of non-compliance.

"As it makes progress with enriching uranium, Iran is likely to become a threshold state and that must be stopped now," Steinitz said.

After two days of talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan, aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear programme, chief negotiator Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, said on Saturday that the sides were still "far apart."

The clock is running down on diplomacy to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis, with Israel refusing to rule out a pre-emptive strike targeting atomic facilities in the Islamic republic.

The Jewish state is widely believed to be the Middle East's sole nuclear-armed state, albeit undeclared.

Iran insists on international recognition of what it says is its "right" to enrich uranium, a key component of the nuclear fuel cycle which can also be used to make the explosive core of an atomic bomb.

World powers say Tehran must end enrichment to high levels and verifiably suspend operations at the Fordo mountain bunker where such activity takes place before recognising Iran's rights to pursue less threatening activities.

Iran denies it is developing the atomic bomb and argues that it requires a nuclear programme solely for peaceful medical and energy needs.


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