US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear installations this spring, the Washington Post said in an editorial on Thursday.
When asked about the opinion piece by reporters travelling with him to a NATO meeting in Brussels, Panetta said he would not comment ‘on what David Ignatius can write’, but added: ‘Israel indicated they’re considering this (a strike): we’ve indicated our concerns.’
The Post columnist said Panetta ‘believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb.’
Panetta yesterday claimed in an interview with CBS that Iran needed ‘about a year’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, and one or two more years to ‘put it on a deliverable vehicle’.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday railed against Russia and China’s veto of a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for Syrian President Assad to step down.
Clinton called for ‘friends of democratic Syria’ to unite and rally against Assad’s regime.
Speaking in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, she said: ‘What happened yesterday at the United Nations was a travesty.
‘Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.’
UK foreign secretary William Hague said hopes now rested on the Arab League to increase pressure for political change.
He claimed the Assad government ‘is driving some opponents to violent action themselves. That is tipping Syria closer to something that begins to look like a civil war.’
Hague added: ‘This underlines the need for a political transition and in our view for Assad to go, or in the plan of the Arab League to hand over to his deputy and form a unity government. That’s a sensible way forward.’