UNITED NATIONS — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned world leaders Thursday that Iran could make a nuclear weapon by spring, and called on them to draw a “red line” to stop the Islamic regime.
“At this late hour, there is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs, and that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Mr. Netanyahu said in his address to the U.N.General Assembly. “To be credible, a red line must be drawn first and foremost in one vital part of [Iran‘s] program: on Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium.”
The Israeli leader met Thursday evening to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has taken the lead for the Obama administration in connecting face-to-face with Middle East leaders after widespread anti-U.S. demonstrations swept the region.
The meeting comes amid heightened concern in Washington about the possibility that Israel is preparing a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. The U.S. has urged restraint to allow international sanctions against Iran’s oil industry enough time cripple the Iranian economy and change the regime’s behavior.
“Now they are well into the second stage; and by next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” the Israeli leader said. “From there, it is only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”
Iran repeatedly has said that its nuclear program is geared toward peaceful purposes like medicine and electric power, but it has blocked international inspections of its sites.
President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship, which has been strained by the Israeli leader’s insistence that the White House establish clear limits on Iran’s nuclear program, which, if breached, would precipitate military action.
“I expect the president will have a follow-up phone call with the prime minister probably Friday,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday.
While past U.S. presidential election years have seen incumbents from both sides of the aisle avoid the hectic schedule — and sensitive politics — associated with such high-level U.N. meetings, Mr. Obama has faced harsh criticism for opting to avoid them this week.
In his place, Mrs. Clinton has met with, among others, Presidents Mohammed Morsi of Egypt, Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan and Mohammed el-Megaref of Libya — three nations in which the anti-U.S. demonstrations against the film denigrating Islam’s Prophet Muhammad were the fiercest.