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Netanyahu says Iran hasn’t crossed nuclear ‘red line’

Published: Updated:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday Iran had not crossed the “red line” he set for its nuclear program, despite an assessment to the contrary by a former Israeli intelligence chief, Reuters reported.

At the United Nations in September, Netanyahu drew a redline across a cartoon bomb to illustrate the point at which he said Iran will have amassed enough uranium at 20 percent fissile purity to fuel one nuclear bomb if enriched further. He saidt hen that Iran could reach that threshold by mid-2013.

Last week, Amos Yadlin, a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, told a security conference in Tel Aviv that “the Iranians have crossed the red line” Netanyahu drew at the U.N. General Assembly.

Without referring directly to Yadlin, Netanyahu said at a meeting on Monday of his Likud-Beitenu parliamentary faction that Iran’s nuclear activities remained short of his benchmark.

"Iran is continuing with its nuclear program. It has yet to cross the red line I presented at the United Nations, but it is approaching it systematically,” he said in broadcast remarks.

“It must not be allowed to cross it.”

Meanwhile, Israel’s former Prime minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that Iran’s nuclear program threat is “exaggerated” since it has not shown progress in the past years, Israeli news website Ynet quoted Olmert as saying.

Speaking at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York, Olmert said “Iran has yet to cross the ‘red line’” defined earlier by Netanyahu.

Olmert said the extent through which Iran’s nuclear program can present a threat has been “exaggerated,” Ynet reported.

The former prime minister recalled that when the Israeli cabinet was told by analysts that “in the year 2008, and at the latest 2009, the Iranians will have a nuclear capacity, we took it very seriously. Now, we are in the middle of 2013 – and they still don't have it.”

However, Olmert added that Iranians should truly consider “the U.S.’s statement that it would do all in its power to ensure Iran did not reach nuclear capabilities,” the website said.

Olmert also said he expects Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “might suffer a fall,” adding that it is “a matter of time before he would be toppled,” Ynet said.

The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy and medical purposes.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power, has issued veiled warnings for years that it might attack Iran if international sanctions and big power diplomacy fail to curb what it regards as a drive by Tehran to develop atomic weapons.

Israel has long insisted on the need for a convincing military threat and setting clear lines beyond which Iran’s nuclear activity should not advance. It says this is the only way to persuade Iran to bow to international pressure by curbing enrichment activity and allowing unfettered U.N. inspections.