JERUSALEM Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that harsh international economic sanctions against Iran, which Israel fears is developing a nuclear weapon to threaten it, have started to have an effect.
In an interview in Saturday's "The Australian" newspaper, Netanyahu said: "For the first time I see Iran wobble ... under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank."
An official in Netanyahu's office confirmed to Reuters the accuracy of the quotes in the interview that was conducted on Tuesday.
Iran has come under increased pressure since the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reported in November that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing a nuclear weapon and that secret research to that end may be continuing.
Iran says it wants only nuclear power and some other civilian types of radioactive material.
A high-level team from the IAEA is expected to visit this month, seeking explanations on long-standing concerns that Iran may be trying to develop nuclear weapons capability.
Iran's envoy to the IAEA has said the Islamic Republic is ready to answer the agency's questions in order to remove "any ambiguities" about its nuclear work and clear up the issue once and for all.
Western diplomats have often accused Iran of deploying stalling tactics in the nuclear standoff with the powers, including the United States, China and Russia, to buy more time while it advances its atomic activities.
Some experts reckon Iran could have enough highly enriched uranium for one bomb next year, giving it a possibility of then, at some future date, constructing a viable weapon within months.
Iran has accused Israel of causing a series of spectacular and sometimes bloody mishaps to its nuclear and ballistic missiles development programme.
But Israeli officials have, as always, declined to make any comment on any involvement in those events, although some have publicly expressed satisfaction at the mishaps.
"May there be more like it," Defence Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Army Radio after a large explosion at a missile facility that killed 17 troops including an officer regarded as the architect of Iran's missile defenses last year.
In the latest incident on Wednesday, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan was killed by an explosion in his car, an attack Iran said was carried out by Israel's Mossad spy agency.
(Writing by Ori Lewis)