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Israeli army chief says Iran not building nuclear weapons

The head of the Israeli military, Chief-of-Staff-Lt Gen Benny Gantz, has told Haaretz newspaper he does not believe Iran will develop nuclear weapons and described Tehran's leadership as 'very rational.'

Benny gantz 2012 04 25Enlarge
“The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so,” Chief-of-Staff-Lt Gen Benny Gantz said. “Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria.” (Ahikam Seri /Getty Images)

The head of the Israeli military has said he does not believe Iran will develop nuclear weapons, describing its leadership as “very rational” in an interview published Wednesday.

Speaking to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Chief-of-Staff-Lt Gen Benny Gantz said he believed international pressure, in the form of economic and diplomatic sanctions, was beginning to achieve results, and that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, would probably not “go the extra mile” to build an atomic bomb.

Gantz’s depiction of Tehran's policies and rulers appeared to contradict Prime Minister’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s frequent and often dramatic warnings that Iran could decide to employ nuclear weapons even if their use would result in a devastating Israeli retaliation, Reuters reports.

“The State of Israel is the strongest in the region and will remain so,” Gantz told Haaretz. “Decisions can and must be made carefully, out of historic responsibility but without hysteria.”

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But as the BBC reports, the military chief warned that 2012 was a critical year for Iran, and as the region was entering “ a period when something must happen,” he was “preparing for full deployment of our capabilities.”

“Either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We’re closer to the end of discussions than the middle.”

Israel is believed to be the only country in the Middle East with a nuclear arsenal, and views a nuclear Iran as a threat to the Jewish state’s existence.

Tehran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes and is not seeking to develop atomic weapons. 

More from GlobalPost: Iran needs diplomacy, not more failed sanctions

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120425/israeli-army-chief-says-iran-not-building-nuclear-weapons