Wednesday's statement by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Iran has 3,000 working uranium-enriching centrifuges could trigger an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, military sources were quoted by the London Times as saying.
Iranian student rally in Tehran (Photo: AFP)
The American military sources were cited by the Times on Thursday as saying that 3,000 centrifuges would be a "tipping point” leading Israel to act. Despite stern US warnings in recent weeks, the Times report said, the Pentagon is reluctant to strike Iran at this point, but Israel is a “different matter,” according to the American sources.
“Israel could do something when they get to around 3,000 working centrifuges. The Pentagon is minded to wait a little longer,” the Times quoted one American official as saying, adding that the statement was made before Ahmadinejad's statement on Wednesday.
On Wednesday evening, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "We cannot take any option off the table and we need to study operational aspects." The defense minister also called for increased economic and diplomatic steps to be taken.
On Wednesday, the Iranian president declared: " We have now reached 3,000 machines." He was speaking before a crowd of thousands of Iranians in Birjand in eastern Iran, in a show of defiance of international demands to halt the program believed to be masking the country's nuclear arms efforts.
Ahmadinejad has in the past claimed Iran succeeded in installing the 3,000 centrifuges at its uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. Wednesday's claim was his first official statement that the plant is now fully operating the 3,000 centrifuges.
Centrifuges are used in enriching uranium, a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or material for a warhead.
Earlier this week, Yossi Baidatz, head of research at Military Intelligence, said Iran's current regime is not in danger of collapsing and may go nuclear by the end of 2009.