Israel gave warning yesterday that Iran must either co-operate with the West over its uranium enrichment programme or face military action.
Ron Prosor, Israel's newly appointed ambassador to Britain and one of his country's leading experts on Iran's nuclear programme, said Tehran could enrich enough uranium to make an atomic bomb by 2009.
"At the current rate of progress Iran will reach the technical threshold for producing fissile material by 2009," he said. "This is a global threat and it requires a global response. It should be made clear that if Iran does not co-operate then military confrontation is inevitable. It is either co-operation or confrontation."
Mr Prosor, who served Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as his senior adviser on Iran, said time for resolving the nuclear issue was running out. But he was non-committal about the possibility of military action.
Mr Prosor spoke after Washington published its latest National Intelligence Assessment, compiled by the main US security agencies, which concluded that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons programme four years ago.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday hailed the report, adding that the "truthfulness of the Iranian nation was once again proved by the ill-wishers themselves".
But Israel and its allies -- including President George W Bush -- remain deeply concerned that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium.
Senior Israeli officials say they have a "zero tolerance policy" on allowing Iran to develop any sort of nuclear weapons capability.
And Mr Prosor, who has been immersed in the Iran issue for more than a decade, expressed surprise over Washington's intelligence estimate. However, he said it contradicted Iran's official claim that its nuclear ambitions had always been peaceful by establishing that it had run a weapons programme, even if it was now suspended. (©Daily Telegraph, London)