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(photo credit: AP)
A new US report that assesses that Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 has foiled any plans for military action against the Islamic republic, a cabinet official told Time magazine on Thursday.
"It looks like this ends the military option against Iran for now. Israel won't attack alone. Iran's facilities are too many and spread too far apart."
Conversely, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i suggested Friday that Israel would continue to consider a military strike in Iran, but said it would first seek to exhaust diplomatic efforts.
"No option needs to be off the table," Vilna'i said on Army Radio when asked if he believed an Israeli strike were possible.
Time reported that Israel's leaders were surprised and disappointed by the American report, understanding that it considerably lessened the likelihood of an American strike on Iran, an action Israel hoped the US would take if sanctions failed to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
While the new US report seemed to show Iran as a much lesser threat than previously believed, Israel disagreed with this assessment.
The paper quoted Israeli intelligence sources who said Iran had been the top priority of the Mossad for the past five years, and the organization assessed that Teheran's nuclear weapons program was very much alive and could produce a nuclear weapon by 2009.
While Israel has refrained from openly criticizing the report, its leaders were determined to keep the international community wary of Iran's nuclear aspirations, and intelligence officials plan to ask for clarifications from their American counterparts regarding the report, Time reported.
"It has many inner contradictions," one cabinet official said.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio that while Iran may have halted development of nuclear weapons four years ago, it has probably revived the program since then.
"We are talking about a specific track connected with their weapons building program, to which the American [intelligence] connection, and maybe that of others, was severed," he said.