Senior Israeli minister: Iran is on course to develop a nuclear bomb in 6 months

White House says US ready to engage in talks with Iran on its nuclear program "on the basis of mutual respect" after Rouhani's overtures, but Israeli minister says time has run out for further negotiations.

Ayatollahs centrifuge 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Ayatollahs centrifuge 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran is on course to develop a nuclear bomb within six months and time has run out for further negotiations, a senior Israeli minister was quoted as saying by Reuters on Friday.
The comments came as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has launched a "charm offensive" in recent days, expressing a willingness to negotiate on Iran's nuclear program.
US President Barack Obama has cautiously welcomed Rouhani's overtures. The positive tone in US-Iranian relations, which have been fraught since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, worries Israel. It is warning the Obama administration not to be seduced by Rouhani's charm offensive.
Jerusalem urged the world on Thursday not to be fooled by Rouhani’s smiles and to intensify sanctions against the regime until he takes concrete steps toward dismantling Tehran’s nuclear program.
“One should not be taken in by Rouhani’s deceptive words,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “The same Rouhani boasted in the past how he deceived the international community with nuclear talks, even as Iran was continuing with its nuclear program.”
However, a White House spokesman said on Friday, that the US is ready to engage in talks "on the basis of mutual respect" with Iran about its disputed nuclear program as long as Tehran is willing to demonstrate that its program is for civilian purposes,
"We have had a number of engagements with the Iranians and we'll continue to have conversations on the basis of mutual respect," Josh Earnest, the deputy White House spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One.
"And over the course of those conversations there will be an opportunity for the Iranians to demonstrate through actions the seriousness with which they are pursuing this endeavor," Earnest said.
Obama and Rouhani will be in New York next week for a meeting of the UN General Assembly. The White House has said that an encounter between the two leaders is possible.
Earnest said there was no meeting scheduled between Obama and Rouhani next week.
His comments were the latest signal from the White House that it views Rouhani as potentially someone with whom it can do business.
The New York Times reported on Friday that Iran sought a "swift agreement" over its nuclear program with the goal of ending sanctions that have devastated its economy.
Earnest, responding to that story, said the White House welcomed the new tone from Tehran after Rouhani's election in June and said sanctions had had their desired effect.
"These sanctions have tightened around the Iranian regime, further isolated them from the international community, taken a significant toll on their economy and put pressure on them to come back to the bargaining table," he said.
"The president has demonstrated a willingness to engage with the Iranians, and has done that for some time now," he added, noting that Obama and Rouhani had exchanged letters.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.