Sources from the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday they believe that Iran could have full nuclear capabilities by 2009. However, the sources said, Iran is more likely to have operational nuclear weapons only in 2010 or 2011.
IDF sources have also said they estimate that Iran will reach a technological threshold that will enable them to independently produce nuclear weapons within six months.
On Monday, efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear program took center stage in discussions between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
Prodi is on a three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank to discuss ways to promote Mideast peacemaking. He and Olmert also discussed Lebanon and internal Palestinian politics.
The Italian premier tried to convince Olmert and other senior political figures that a distinction should be made between the development of nuclear weapons in Iran, to which he expressed complete opposition, and a nuclear program for civilian purposes.
In closed-door talks, Prodi said that Iran had started to develop its nuclear programs in the 1970s, and that it would not be possible to reverse the knowledge or technology it had acquired. He also acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement with Iran were nearly exhausted.
But Olmert, speaking at a joint press conference with Prodi, said, "Israel's position is clear: we will never be able to resign ourselves to the possibility that a state threatening the destruction of Israel will have nuclear capabilities."
"Iran, through the voice of its president [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, calls almost daily for the destruction of the State of Israel. A country like this cannot, under any circumstances, possess unconventional capabilities, and everything must be done to prevent this," Olmert continued.
At the press conference, held at Olmert's Jerusalem residence, Prodi echoed the prime minister, saying "Iran must not develop nuclear military capability. Because Iran is a regional power, it must act responsibly, and give up any nuclear military program."
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