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August 10, 2012 10:29 am

U.S.-Israel Rift Over Iran Nuclear Red Line Deepens

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Photo: Ariel Harmoni/Israeli Defense Ministry.

The differences between Israel and the U.S. on whether to take action against the Ayatollah regime over its nuclear weapons program have deepened. The U.S. still believes that Iran is not on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon and that Tehran has not made a decision to pursue one, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Their comments came after Israeli media reports claimed U.S. President Barack Obama had received a new National Intelligence Estimate saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability.

The new National Intelligence Estimate report on the Iranian nuclear program is very similar to Israeli assessments on the matter, and the perturbing nature of the report highlights the disparity between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position to that of President Obama.

Later, Defense Minister Ehud Barak suggested that the new U.S. report, which he acknowledged might be something other than a National Intelligence Estimate, “transforms the Iranian situation into an even more urgent one.”

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But U.S. National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor disputed the Israeli reports, saying the U.S. intelligence assessment of Iran’s nuclear activities had not changed since intelligence officials delivered testimony to Congress on the issue earlier this year.

“We believe that there is time and space to continue to pursue a diplomatic path, backed by growing international pressure on the Iranian government,” Vietor said. “We continue to assess that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a nuclear weapon.”

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