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Middle East

Israeli defence chief: 'Rational' Iran will not go nuclear

The chief of staff of Israel's defence force has said Iran will ultimately decide against building a nuclear weapon, putting him at odds with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister.

Lt-Gen Benny Gantz believes diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions, along with Israel's determination to strike if necessary, will act as a deterrent.

"I don't think [Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] will want to go the extra mile," he told the Haaretz daily newspaper yesterday. "I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people."

At the same time, General Gantz warned that Israel was moving forward with its preparations to take military action if necessary. "We are preparing for it in a credible manner," he said. This year would be critical in determining whether Iran decided to take the final steps needed for a weapon, he added.

His comments contrasted with much tougher statements by Mr Netanyahu, who complained in an interview on Tuesday that international sanctions had not changed Iran's behaviour. He said Iran continued to enrich uranium.

Sanctions "are certainly taking a bite out of the Iranian economy, but so far they haven't rolled back the Iranian programme or even stopped it by one iota", Mr Netanyahu said. Nuclear centrifuges are "spinning as we speak. So if the sanctions are going to work, they better work soon".