President Obama on Thursday said Iran would require more than one year to acquire a nuclear armament, Agence France-Presse reported.
"It would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously, we don't want to cut it too close," according to Obama. Washington could weigh the use of direct force if economic pressure and diplomatic engagement fail to defuse an international standoff over the Middle Eastern nation's suspected nuclear arms ambitions, he told Israeli Channel 2 TV.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested his country could launch an armed offensive should concerns persist over Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear-weapon capability. U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper on Tuesday told lawmakers it was unclear if Tehran, which insists its atomic activities are strictly peaceful, would ultimately move to assemble a nuclear arsenal.
A peaceful answer to the atomic dispute would be "more lasting" if one can be achieved, "but if not, I continue to keep all options on the table," Obama stated in remarks directed to the Israeli leader. The two are set to meet next week in Israel.
"My Cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies," Obama said. "Secretary (of State John) Kerry and Secretary (of Defense Chuck) Hagel share my fundamental view that the issue of Iran's nuclear capability is an issue of U.S. national security interest as well as Israel's national security interest."
Netanyahu last year said Iran was on track to stockpile sufficient 20 percent-enriched uranium by the middle of this year to rapidly produce fuel for a single bomb if it chose to do so. The prime minister established the threshold as a "red line" that could warrant new action against Iran, but Tehran has since maintained limits on its stockpiling of the sensitive uranium.
Tel Aviv has quietly pushed back Netanyahu's declared cutoff date and might not establish a replacement time line, multiple Israeli government insiders told Reuters in comments reported on Friday.
Meanwhile, an Iranian military aircraft tailed a U.S. Predator unmanned aerial vehicle over the Persian Gulf this week, prompting a U.S. Air Force jet to launch a cautionary beacon and the United States to issue a "verbal warning," The Hill quoted the Defense Department as saying.
The Iranian F-4 Phantom jet flew within 16 miles of the U.S. planes before distancing itself, Pentagon spokesman George Little said, adding the Air Force contingent had at no point entered Iranian territory.
Elsewhere, India's top petroleum official on Wednesday said purchases of unrefined oil from Iran could fall up to 17 percent short of a prior projection for an annual budget cycle running through March, the Wall Street Journal reported.
A Greek investigation launched on Thursday is set to weigh nullifying an international firm's operating permit over purported ties to an operation alleged to have sought to skirt restrictions on exports of Iranian oil, Reuters reported.