WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In his latest warning about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Iran was working on intercontinental ballistic missiles that could one day hit the United States.
"They're not developing those ICBMs for us. They can reach us with what they have. It's for you," he told CBS News.
"The American intelligence knows as well as we do that Iran is developing ICBMs not to reach Israel. They want to reach well beyond," he said on the network's "This Morning" program.
The United States and other Western powers have shown an increased interest in engaging with Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, although Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that Tehran must first prove it is willing to end the stand-off over its nuclear program.
The ICBM issue first emerged after a 2011 blast at an Iranian military base that Israeli officials said was linked to efforts to build a missile that could travel 6,000 miles – far enough to reach the United States.
Israeli officials in early 2012 said that it would be two to three years before Iran would have such long-range missiles that could hit the United States.
One senior Israeli security official, asked about Netanyahu's comments Thursday, said the threat of Iranian ICBMs was still not imminent. "It will be a few years before Iran has ballistic missiles," said the official, who declined to be identified.
Netanyahu told CBS that he was not worried that his warnings may sound too strident given the ongoing efforts by the United States and others to negotiate with Iran.
"The policy should be … not to let Iran wiggle away with a partial deal in which they make cosmetic concessions," he said.
In another interview, Netanyahu also warned Iran's work on ICBMs was clearly aimed at delivering nuclear weapons.
"Those … long-range ballistic missiles have only one purpose in the world. Their sole purpose is to arm them with a nuclear payload," he told NBC's Andrea Mitchell in an interview set to air later on Thursday.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Louis Charboneau in New York; Editing by Alistair Bell and David Storey)