Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Time is running out for a diplomatic solution to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, a senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday.
Iran successfully avoided referral to the United Nations Security Council last week, when the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed to a last-minute proposal by European nations.
Britain, France and Germany (E.U.-3) will try to persuade Iran to move its uranium-enrichment process to Russia -- to prevent Iran from producing weapons-grade uranium. (Russia is helping Iran build its nuclear reactor in Bushehr.)
Both the E.U. and the United States advised Iran to cooperate. (see earlier story)
The IAEA Board of Governors is due to meet again on March 6, 2006, and U.S. envoy Gregory Schulte has stressed that referral to the Security Council remains an option.
The end of March will be a crucial time regarding Iran's development of an atomic weapon, the head of military intelligence for the Israeli army told lawmakers on Wednesday.
If the IAEA doesn't succeed in taking Iran to the U.N. Security Council by then, it will be possible to say that the diplomatic effort has failed, Maj.-General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash was quoted as saying.
The U.S. has been trying for more than a year to have the issue of Iran's nuclear development referred to the Security Council. But European states -- along with Russia and China, which both wield veto power on the Security Council -- have opposed the move.
The U.S., Israel and increasingly some European nations believe that Iran is using its nuclear energy program as a front for the clandestine development of atomic weapons.
In a statement at last week's meeting, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said the IAEA was still trying to "clarify the nature and extent of Iran's nuclear program."
In "strategic dialogue" talks this week, the United States and Israel "expressed concern at the Iranian government's growing radicalization and its irresponsible policy on nuclear issues," a State Department statement said.
Senior officials in Washington have said in the past that the U.S. has not ruled out the possibility of taking military action against Iran when and if the time is right.
Iran has warned Israel against taking military action. In 1981, Israel launched an air strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor shortly before it was to become active.
In regards to Iran, Israel insists that the Islamic Republic poses not just a regional but a worldwide threat.
Israel also has warned that Iran must not be allowed to reach the point where it can enrich uranium - a key step in building a bomb. Experts differ in their estimates, saying that Iran is anywhere from six months to six years away from that critical point.
Iranian affairs expert Menashe Amir said the West must toughen its stance against Iran, given the new regime's shift in policy. The new regime -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected in June -- apparently believes that the West will back down first.
The new president believes that "when Iran [takes] a harder and harsher stand, the international community will retreat," said Amir. That means the international community must take a tougher diplomatic stand -- to force Iran to back down, he added.
Iran's new president believes that "when Iran [takes] a harder and harsher stand, the international community will retreat," said Amir. That means the international community must take a tougher diplomatic stand -- to force Iran to back down, he added.
Both sides are waiting to see who will blink first, said Amir. "Iran is hoping and expecting that [the West] will blink first."
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