Barak: U.S. Committed to Israel's Security More Than Ever Before

Defense Minister says both countries agree everything should be done to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; nations meeting in Rome agree to boost pressure on Tehran.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that "the U.S. stands besides Israel in terms of its security more than ever before," and that "both countries agree that everything should be done to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

Speaking with reporters at a Hanukkah ceremony in the Efraim IDF Base that was attacked by right-wing settlers a week ago, Barak said that "it is still time for diplomacy, but we will see what will happen as time goes on."

Obama, Ehud Barak
Pete Souza / Courtesy of the White House

Barak's statements came a day after U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that Iran will have a nuclear weapon within one year, if not less.

Speaking in an interview with CBS Evening News, Panetta said that it would probably take a year for Tehran to assemble a nuclear bomb, but said that one provision is if the Iranians have a hidden facility that "may be enriching fuel."

Panetta said Israel's concern for a nuclear Iran is a "common concern" of the U.S., and that Washington would not rule out a military attack.

"The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis," he told CBS.

Meanwhile, the U.S.¬ and other nations meeting Tuesday in Rome to discuss sanctions against Iran for its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons have resolved to boost pressure on Tehran to restart negotiations, Italian foreign ministry officials said.

The closed-door meeting brought together officials of what the ministry described as "like-minded countries." The group included the United States and EU nations, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea and possibly a Gulf country, diplomats said. Exact participants were not identified.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified U.S., European and Arab diplomats, reported that Iran's oil exports and global energy prices were key issues on the table.

Foreign ministry officials, speaking on traditional ground rules of anonymity, said participants stressed the urgent need for Iran to satisfy world concerns about its nuclear program.

The participants also expressed determination for a broad partnership to strengthen pressure on Tehran with the aim of restarting a serious negotiation process, the ministry officials said.

Iran denies that it is pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.