JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and the US disagree on what would be a realistic timetable for stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Israel's defense minister said Thursday, but stopped short of threatening unilateral Israeli action.
Ehud Barak reiterated concerns that Iran is trying to make its suspected nuclear weapons program immune from attack before taking a decision on assembling atomic bombs.
Israel "cannot afford" to wait in such a situation, Barak told Israel Radio.
However, several more months can be given to allow sanctions and negotiations to work, he said. During this period, it would become clear "if the Iranians intend or don't intent to stop their nuclear weapons program."
In the interview, Barak argued that superior U.S. military capabilities and America's position as a world power lead to its different stance on the subject of Iranian nuclear threats.
Israel feels directly threatened by a nuclear Iran, Barak stressed.
In a separate interview with German television, Barak said that 2012 is a "highly important" year for a possible strike and speculated that a "surgical intervention" — a precision hit on Iranian targets — is not a matter of weeks, but also not a matter of years.
Iran denies it is trying to develop nuclear weapons, and insists its nuclear program is meant for peaceful uses such as generating electricity.
Barak said Israel and the U.S. agree on the final objective of preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, but that "the difference between us and the U.S. is the perspective on timetables."
"America has more abilities than Israel," Barak said. "You can think of a time when Israel would be very limited in its ability to act."