ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — The White House Thursday declined to respond to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's comment that new US intelligence warns the Iranian nuclear threat has become much more "urgent."
Barak had suggested that a new US intelligence assessment on Iran had brought the Obama administration's position much closer to that of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One that he would not comment on "intelligence matters or intelligence ... the president may or may not have received."
He said Obama remained committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and was leading an international effort to impose what Iran has described as "the most stringent" sanctions imposed on any country.
Carney also demurred when asked whether Washington was irked that Barak had been commenting publicly on such sensitive matters.
Barak had told Israeli public radio that "it seems there really is a report by US intelligence agencies. I don't know if it's by the National Intelligence Estimate or a different agency circulating between senior chambers."
Israeli daily Haaretz ran the story on its front page.
"As far as we know, it brings the American assessment much much closer to ours," Barak said. "I'd say that compared to previous American appraisals, it makes the Iranian issue a bit more urgent."
Israel, the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, says Iran's nuclear program poses an existential threat, and has repeatedly refused to rule out military action to halt Tehran's nuclear activity.
The Obama administration, only three months before the president asks voters for a second term, is loath to launch a new US war in the Middle East and wants to give time for newly strengthened sanctions to work.
Iran refuses to bow to Western demands that it curb its sensitive uranium enrichment under the pressure of punishing economic sanctions that were ramped up in July to their toughest level so far.
Tehran has demanded that its "right" to enrichment be recognized and that the sanctions be eased.
The Islamic republic rejects Western suspicions that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability, insisting its nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful.
A series of visits by high-ranking US defense officials to Israel has raised speculation that Washington is trying to dissuade Israel from a preemptive military attack.
"We are determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear, and all the options are on the table. When we say it, we mean it," Barak said.
"When the Americans say it, we believe them. Others should believe them too," the defense minister said.
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