Iran may develop inter-continental missiles that can reach the east coast of the United States in two to three years, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a CNBC interview Wednesday.
Iran is investing billions of dollars, Steinitz said, to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles. "We estimate that in 2-3 years they will have the first inter-continental ballistic missiles that can reach the east coast of America."
"Their aim is clearly not only to be able to threaten Israel and the Middle East," he continued, "but to put a direct nuclear ballistic threat to Europe and to the United States of America."
Former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi told CNBC that Iranian threats must be taken seriously.
When asked whether Iran's leadership was rational, Ashkenazi responded, "I really don't know, but I do know that we cannot trust a regime that regularly calls for the elimination and destruction of Israel, I think we have to take it seriously."
Earlier Wednesday, Russia warned Israel not to attack Iran over its nuclear program, saying on Wednesday that military action would have catastrophic consequences.
"Of course any possible military scenario against Iran will be catastrophic for the region and for the whole system of international relations," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.
"Therefore I hope Israel understands all these consequences ... and they
should also consider the consequences of such action for themselves,"
Gatilov said at a news conference.
Gatilov's comments came as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that Tehran's nuclear course would not change regardless of international sanctions, assassinations or other pressures.
The UN nuclear watchdog also said on Wednesday it had failed to secure an agreement with Iran during two days of talks over disputed atomic activities and that the Islamic Republic had rejected a request to visit a key military site.
In the second such trip in less than a month, a senior team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had traveled to Tehran to press Iranian officials to start addressing mounting concerns that the Islamic Republic may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
Reuters contributed to this report