WASHINGTON – Iran
has reached the point where it can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
said overnight Tuesday.
In an interview for CBS's "60 Minutes," Panetta said that should Iran proceed with developing a nuclear weapon "then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."
Just two weeks ago Panetta spoke
out against a military strike on Iran, saying it could have severe economic repercussions worldwide, but he told CBS that the military option was not "off the table."
Asked about the possibility of an Israeli
attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the defense secretary said, "Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it."
Barak's meeting with Obama last weekend (Photo: White House)
Panetta said that if Iran has a "hidden facility somewhere" where it is enriching fuel – that would allow it to speed up the development of nuclear arms.
The defense secretary said that while a nuclear Iran would be "unacceptable," he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to produce nuclear weapons.
The full interview with Panetta will be aired next week.
US President Barack Obama
said over the weekend that his administration was determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"We’re going to keep up the pressure, and that’s why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table,” Obama said at a convention of the Union for Reform Judaism in near Washington. “We’re going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies.”
Obama met Defense Minister Ehud Barak
met privately on the sidelines of the conference, but details from the meeting were not revealed. Following the meeting, the American leader said "the cooperation between our militaries has never been stronger."
Barak refused to say whether Obama requested full cooperation on the Iranian issue in order to prevent an independent Israeli military strike. The defense minister only responded that both countries agree that a nuclear Iran is "unacceptable."
On Monday former Mossad chief Meir Dagan said
a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities should not be Israel's first option.