Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday Iran's announcement of new nuclear achievements was exaggerated and meant to fend off action against the Islamic republic.

"They are describing a situation that is better and more advanced than the one they are in, in order to create a feeling among all the players that the point of no return is already behind them, which is not true," Barak told Israel Radio.

Iran on Wednesday proclaimed advances in nuclear know-how, including new centrifuges able to enrich uranium much faster, a move that may heighten its confrontation with the West over suspicions it is seeking the means to make atomic bombs.

Barak said those announcements were meant to create an impression that any action taken by world powers to curb Iran's nuclear program would be too late. Iran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.

Tension between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear work has mounted since November, when the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency said Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon.

Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only atomic power, has said a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence. Both Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action to stop Tehran developing atomic bombs.

"They are definitely making progress, but in order to deter anyone dealing with them, or perhaps even to make this seem superfluous, they are priding themselves on achievements that do not yet exist," Barak said.

The United States, which called Wednesday's Iranian announcement of nuclear progress "not terribly new and not terribly impressive", and the European Union have imposed tighter sanctions in recent weeks on both Iran's oil exports and international financial transactions with Tehran.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

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