WASHINGTON - If Iran decides to make a nuclear weapon, the United States would have a little more than a year to act to stop it, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.
"It's roughly about a year right now. A little more than a year. And so ... we think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision, take the action necessary to stop (Iran)," Panetta said on CBS's "This Morning" program.
He said the United States has "pretty good intelligence" on Iran. "We know generally what they're up to. And so we keep a close track on them."
Panetta said the United States has the capability to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb.
"We have the forces in place to be able to not only defend ourselves, but to do what we have to do to try to stop them from developing nuclear weapons," he said.
The United States and Israel believe Iran is working toward developing nuclear weapon development capability. Israel, widely thought to be the Middle East's only atomic power, says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence.
Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday ramped up threats to attack Iran, saying if world powers refused to set a red line for Tehran's nuclear program, they could not demand that Israel hold its fire.
"The world tells Israel 'wait, there's still time.' And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?' Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," Netanyahu told reporters in Israel.
Netanyahu has said Israel and the United States were in talks on setting a "clear red line" for Iran's nuclear program. But the two allies remain at odds over whether to spell out a clear threshold for military action.
Powers to voice 'serious concern' about Iran atom work
Six world powers are expected to voice "serious concern" about Iran's uranium enrichment program and to urge Tehran to provide the UN nuclear watchdog with access to the sites it needs for its investigation, diplomats said on Tuesday.
They said the six powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - had agreed a draft text on Iran's nuclear program at a meeting of the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
One diplomat said the text was expected to be put forward as a proposed IAEA board resolution, to be voted on later in the week.