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US will be forced into military confrontation with Iran next year, former envoy says

Martin Indyk, former US envoy to Tel Aviv says there's not a lot of time to stop Iran from reaching the ability to build a nuclear bomb.

RAMALLAH // A former US ambassador to Israel has predicted that Washington would be forced into a "military confrontation with Iran" next year over its suspected nuclear weapons programme.

The comments come amid signs of a widening rift between the White House and Israel over the issue.

Martin Indyk, envoy to Tel Aviv during the administration of former US president Bill Clinton, warned that "there's not a lot of time" to stop Iran from reaching the ability to build a nuclear bomb.

"I'm afraid that 2013 is going to be a year in which we're going to have a military confrontation with Iran," he said during an interview on Sunday on the US-based CBS television network's Face The Nation.

His remarks coincide with attempts by Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to increase the pressure on the White House to set "red lines" for an attack on Tehran.

On Sunday, the Israeli leader appeared on two US television networks to plead a similar case, despite a recent spate of criticism from American media personalities and politicians for publicly pressing the issue on the administration of Barack Obama, the US president.

The latter has opted for a more cautious approach on Iran.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr Netanyahu used an American-football analogy to warn that Iran was "in the last 20 yards, and you can't let them cross that goal-line".

Also, during an appearance on CNN's State of the Union, he linked the recent riots in the Arab world over a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed to Iran, warning: "You can't have such people have atomic bombs".

The comments appear likely to aggravate already fraught relations between the Israeli leader and the White House.

The US president has reportedly declined an offer to meet today with Mr Netanyahu, who will be in New York for a meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Mr Obama, who will also be in the city, is instead expected to make a guest appearance today on CBS's The Late Show with David Letterman, reported the National Journal, an American magazine.

That apparent snub was followed by a rare rebuke last week of the Israeli leader from Barbara Boxer, a Democratic senator from California who is Jewish and known for her support of Israel.

On her website, she described her "deep disappointment" at Mr Netanyahu's apparent attempts to use the Iran issue to question Washington's commitment to Israel.

Frustration with Mr Netanyahu arose early in Mr Obama's presidency and was exacerbated by the Israeli leader's apparent intransigence during a round of Israel-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed shortly after restarting in September 2010.

Critics also have accused Mr Netanyahu of meddling in November's US presidential election by favouring Mr Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

Writing last week on Time magazine's website, Joe Klein, a prominent American journalist, accused the Israeli leader of doing "two things that should be intolerable for any patriotic American".

Those, he wrote, were "trying to influence our presidential campaign" and trying "to shove us into a war of choice in a region where far too many Americans have already died needlessly".

Iran rejects allegations that it is developing nuclear weapons, saying its nuclear programme is peaceful and aimed at energy and development purposes only.

hnaylor@thenational.ae

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