Israeli Minister: Iran Plans 'Nuclear Arsenal'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The United States, Israel and Europe are all underestimating the scale of Iran's military nuclear ambitions. They don't understand that Iran wants a whole arsenal of nuclear weapons not just a single bomb, a senior Israeli government official said on Monday.

Speaking to the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem, Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said that most people are asking whether or not Iran will get a nuclear bomb.

"Many people are telling themselves the question of the Iranian bomb, whether they will have the bomb or not. No we are speaking about [an] Iranian arsenal," Steinitz said.

"The Iranian nuclear industry, although technologically they are not there yet -- they didn't produce a bomb yet -- but the scale of the Iranian nuclear industry was built from the outset with the capacity to produce many bombs," he said.

For example, Steinitz explained, Iran's main enrichment facility in Natanz has 12,000 centrifuges, but the plan is for 54,000 centrifuges that would eventually enable them to produce enough enriched uranium to make 20-30 bombs each year.

"We are speaking about an historical game changer. It's going to change the world," he said. "It's going to create a dangerous new world totally different than today. It's going to have terrible, dramatic effect, not just on the Middle East and Israel but also Europe and United States and beyond."

Steinitz said that while international sanctions against Iran are significant, the pressure the Western world is applying on Iran is not enough to make it abandon its goals of a nuclear arsenal.

For 20 years, Steinitz said Iranian leaders have been speaking about "the historical task, the need to change the overall balance of power between Islam and the Western world, and this is the main goal, the real goal of the military nuclear project."

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Julie Stahl

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