PM: Sanctions have had no effect on Iran's nuclear program

At joint press conference with visiting US secretary of defense, Netanyahu says time running out on Iranian nuclear issue, adds Iran doesn't believe int'l community serious about stopping it; Panetta touts bilateral ties.

Netanyahu, Panetta shake hands 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
Netanyahu, Panetta shake hands 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that US-led sanctions and diplomatic efforts have had no impact on the Iranian nuclear program, and warned that time is running out to peacefully resolve the issue.
Speaking at a press conference
with visiting US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Netanyahu said: "You recently said that sanctions on Iran are having a big impact on the Iranian economy. And that is correct. And I am sure that the recent sanctions advanced by the president and the congress will have an even greater impact on the Iranian economy. But unfortunately, it's also true that neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet have any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program."
Netanyahu also said that time was running out to peacefully resolve the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program, and that Iran believed that the international community was not actually serious or committed in trying to stop it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
He added that with time running out on a peaceful solution, and that the world must convince Iran very soon that it is serious and that Iran will face unacceptable consequences if it keeps building its nuclear weapons program.
In response to the prime minister's remarks, Panetta stated unequivocally: "We will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Period. We will not allow them to develop a nuclear weapon." 
Panetta added that the US has a "rock-solid commitment: to the security of Israel and its citizens, calling
US-Israel defense cooperation "closer than at any point in history."
Earlier Wednesday, Panetta hinted that the US is prepared to use military force to stop Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Panetta made the remarks during a visit to an Iron Dome counter rocket defense system outside the city of Ashkelon together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"If they continue and if they proceed with a nuclear weapon... we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen," Panetta said.
While expressing skepticism that sanctions would succeed in stopping Iran - on Tuesday US President Barack Obama announced two new rounds of sanctions against Iran's envy and banking sectors - Barak hailed the Israeli-US alliance, even while admitting that there were disagreements on Iran.
"There are disagreements but this does not affect the profound depth of our ties and we plan to keep it that way," Barak said.
Also earlier, Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised Panetta for his role in enhancing security ties between the US and Israel as the two met in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
"Ties between Israel an the US in the security realm are as strong and close as they have ever been, and without a doubt, a substantial part of the credit belongs to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta," Barak said.
Calling Panetta "not just a personal friend for many years, but a friend of Israel," Barak went on to say that "The US and Israel see reality in much the same way, and there is much to discuss, as the regional problems are serious and numerous."

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Ahead of Panetta's arrival in Israel on Tuesday night, Israeli officials said they expected him to press Israel to give more time for sanctions before launching a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo shortly before departing for Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about “various contingencies,” but said specific military plans would not be put forward.
“I think it is the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans,” he said. “What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond.”
Asked whether these included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that.”
The US has said it is determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.
“Both of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to that extent we continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said.
Yaakov Katz and Reuters contributed to this report.