JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Iran was now closer to crossing the "red line" after which it would be able to build a nuclear weapon but had not yet reached that stage.
"The Iranians are closer to the red line," his office quoted him as telling visiting American Jewish leaders. "They haven't crossed it yet but they are shortening the time needed to cross it."
"This must be stopped," he said. "We need to apply stronger pressure and harsher sanctions."
In a September address to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Netanyahu called for a "clear red line" to stop Iran getting a nuclear bomb.
He used a red marker pen to draw a line through a cartoon diagram of a bomb to illustrate what the international community's limit for Iran's uranium enrichment program should be.
He said Iran had 70 per cent of the necessary uranium for a bomb and warned that at the current pace of enrichment, the Islamic republic could have nearly all the material needed to create a first bomb by summer.
The Iranian government says it is enriching uranium to 20 per cent purity - a short technical step from the 90 per cent needed for a nuclear bomb - for a medical research reactor. The West believes the effort hides a military goal.
Much of the international community fears Iran's nuclear programme includes efforts to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran has repeatedly denied.
Israel believes Iran must be prevented from reaching military nuclear capabilities at any cost and refuses to rule out military intervention to that end.