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Israel Clarifies Red Line on Iran Nuclear Program

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers stands in front of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2007. Israeli officials have reportedly cited 240 kilograms of higher-enriched uranium, enough for one nuclear weapon, as the red line that Iran must not cross (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian). An Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers stands in front of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in 2007. Israeli officials have reportedly cited 240 kilograms of higher-enriched uranium, enough for one nuclear weapon, as the red line that Iran must not cross (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian).

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's September speech to the U.N. General Assembly did not present a clear figure regarding how much higher-enriched uranium Iran would have to obtain in order to cross a "red line" the Israeli government would consider unacceptable, the number now appears to be set, London Guardian reported on Thursday.

Israeli officials now say the threshold Iran should not be allowed to cross is 240 kilograms of 20 percent-enriched uranium, slightly less than 530 pounds, according to the newspaper. This is roughly the amount it would take, with further refinement, to make one nuclear weapon.

The first mention of the number came when Israeli television presented it to Netanyahu following his U.N. speech. Netanyahu "did not contest" the figure during the interview.

Israeli officials are now putting the number out themselves, the Guardian reported.

During the U.N. speech, Netanyahu only drew an actual red line across an illustration of a bomb, which he said represented Iran reaching 90 percent of the way toward nuclear weapons capability. That achievement would require 20 percent enriched uranium, but he did not say how much.

Weapon-grade uranium has an enrichment level of about 90 percent, but enriching the substance to 20 percent is considered a key step to reaching that level.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in an August safeguards report that Iran had prepared roughly 190 kilograms -- 419 pounds -- of uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, but that more than half of that had been changed for specific use in powering a nuclear reactor and could not easily be turned toward powering a nuclear weapon.

Iran says the higher-enriched uranium is needed for fueling a medical research reactor in Tehran. It denies claims by Israel, the United States and other nations that its atomic program is intended to produce a weapons capability.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the London Daily Telegraph earlier this week that Iran's move to modify some of its higher-enriched uranium "allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth (meaning an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities) by eight to 10 months," the Washington Post reported.

Tel Aviv believes that Iran could reach the red line amount of stockpiled uranium by spring or summer of 2013, depending on whether it continues to divert 50 percent of the material toward reactor fuel, the Guardian reported.

The United States is not likely to accept that figure as a cause for military action without clear proof that Iran is pressing for a nuclear weapon or illicitly preparing uranium to weapon-grade levels, according to the newspaper.

The head of the Israeli political opposition on Thursday lashed Netanyahu for an "obsession" with attacking Iran, Reuters reported.

"Netanyahu is leading us on a Messianic path, toward a collision, in an irresponsible and irrational way," Kadima party chief Shaul Mofaz said to reporters.

"We mustn't let Netanyahu carry out this obsession," he asserted, calling for Netanyahu's government to be ejected in Jan. 22 voting. The prime minister is not expected to face such a defeat in the election, observers say.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is studying whether to send Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft to an installation in the United Arab Emirates, the London Independent reported on Friday. The fighter plans could serve as a measure against any Iranian effort to close shipping access through the Strait of Hormuz, a key body of water for the passage of oil. Some Iranian officials have said the strait could be blocked in response to the escalating set of sanctions imposed on Iran over its contested nuclear efforts.

Prime Minister David Cameron appears set to decide on the matter in short order, according to the newspaper.

“The U.K. regularly deploys Typhoon to UAE as part of our routine exercise program and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE and the security of the wider region. We have a mutual interest with our (Gulf Cooperation Council) partners in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and exercises such as this allow us to practice working together," the British Defense Ministry said in a statement. It added: “These deployments are not due to our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. As we continue to make clear, the government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table.”

Barak, who is visiting London, is "fully aware" of British consideration of shifting some of its warplanes and would back such a move, the newspaper reported.

Military and foreign relations insiders told the Independent that the Typhoons might be sent to the al-Dhafra air base, which is located 20 miles south of the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. France and the United States already have fighter aircraft at the installation.

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