Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Saturday that Iran is getting closer to developing a nuclear bomb, and that new and more crippling sanctions should be imposed on the Islamic Republic.

Speaking on "Meet the Press," a Channel 2 program, Barak denied however that the latest blasts that occurred in Iran mark the beginning of a military campaign. Barak said actions against Iran are being carried out in the diplomatic sphere, through sanctions and through the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). When asked if a clandestine war against Iran has already begun, he replied: "I think the answer to that is no."

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"Iran is getting close to the bomb, and the sanctions should be quick, focused and stronger," Barak said. "We can't wait and say – we'll see if they have a bomb, and then we'll act. What if by then we will not be able to act?"

In response to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta' speech yesterday, in which he urged Israel not to act alone against Iran, Barak said Panetta's full message is more complex than that.

"We are in constant dialogue with the Americans," he said, "I've met Panetta about a dozen times over the last two or three years. In person we hold more intensive talks."

Barak said the entire international community agrees that the diplomatic course and the use of sanctions must be exhausted, yet added that "no option should be taken off the table. Israel is responsible for its security, its future and its existence."

He also responded to recent statements by senior Israeli officials, who warned against a military strike on Iran and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conduct.

"The prime minister and I don't make decisions alone," he said. "Every decision is made after hearing (the opinions) of all bodies, professionals and (after reviewing) recommendations." Barak said there is room for public debate about the Iranian nuclear program, but the way in which the discourse is taking place is harmful.

Asked about the victory of the Islamic parties in the Egyptian elections, Barak said that "the Islamization process in Arab countries is very disturbing. It is too early to tell how these changes will affect the area. I hope any government formed in Egypt will understand there is no choice but to maintain the framework of international agreements, which include the peace agreement with Israel."

On the topic of the deadlock in talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Barak said Israel sees talks as one of its main objectives.

"Anyone who reads between the lines can see a change in the Israeli position. The government is willing to hold direct negotiations at any moment, with no preconditions. We have to move toward negotiations, but things don't happen in an empty space," he said.

He also added he is willing to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "right now."

Read this article in Hebrew: ישראל כבר תוקפת באיראן? ברק: אני חושב שהתשובה שלילית