Sharon: Time not ripe for military strike against Iran's nuclear program

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Thursday that the time has not come for a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, but urged the world to put diplomatic pressure on the Tehran government.

"I personally am troubled by the fact that the world is getting used to the notion of the day coming when Iran becomes a member of the nuclear weapons club," Sharon told Israel Radio.

Asked whether Israel might launch an air strike against Iran's nuclear program as it did in 1981 when it destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, Sharon said conditions in Iran are different.

"It is a huge country with very many options to conceal (a nuclear reactor). ... I don't think Israel has to lead this struggle. ... It is good for it not to lead this battle."

"This is not the time for military operations, Sharon added. "This is the stage for economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran."

The United States, he said, should head an international effort to put an end to Iran's attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

"In the end, there will be no option but to bring them before the (United Nations) Security Council and take diplomatic and economic steps to pressure them to stop this effort of theirs," he predicted.

Sharon has said that while Iran is years from possessing a nuclear weapon, it is only months short of overcoming unspecified technological problems in building one. Overcoming these issues, he reiterated Thursday, would be the "point of no-return" because Iran then would be able to develop nuclear arms.

Iran has denied that it is developing nuclear weapons, explaining that its reactors would be used for peaceful purposes like producing electricity.

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