Panetta: U.S. Prepared to Implement 'Other Options' to Prevent a Nuclear Iran

During a tour of Iron Dome system in Ashkelon with Barak, U.S. Defense Secretary says the U.S. ' respects Israel's sovereignty to decide what's in their best interest.'

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned Wednesday that the United States is prepared to implement 'other options' if Iran continues to work toward attaining nuclear weapons.

Panetta made the remarks at the site of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system in Ashkelon.

Panetta said that the U.S. has "other options and [is] prepared to implement them" if Iran continues to work toward nuclear weapons.

"Iran must either negotiate acceptable limits on its nuclear program or face the possibility of U.S. military action to stop it from getting the bomb," Panetta stressed.

Panetta said that the U.S. has been "taking steps to continue to apply more pressure on Iran," mentioning Obama's announcement of new Iran sanctions on Tuesday.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, standing beside Panetta, said he sees an "extremely low" probability that sanctions will ever compel Iran to give up its nuclear activities.

"Diplomacy takes time but at the same time the Iranians continue to enrich uranium," Barak said. "We have everything to lose while time passes allowing diplomacy to work."

Panetta also said that the U.S. respects Israel's right to defend itself.
"The U.S. respects Israel's sovereignty and independence and their efforts to decide what's in their best interest in the region," he said.

He said that he doesnt want to speculate about the future, but reiterated that both countries are interested in preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons.

Lolita Brayman contributed to this report

Panetta and Barak in Ashkelon - Reuters - August 1, 2012