Jerusalem - Israel's military chief said on Wednesday that Iran is unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons while stressing that a military option is prepared for such a prospect.
"The (nuclear) program is too vulnerable, in Iran's view," Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz told the Haaretz daily in a 64th Independence Day interview.
"If the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, he will advance it to the acquisition of a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken," Gantz said.
However, he pointed out that "it will happen if Khamenei judges that he is invulnerable to a response, ... I believe he would be making an enormous mistake, and I don't think he will want to go the extra mile."
In another interview, appearing in the Israeli Yediot Aharonot daily, Gantz stressed that the army is prepared to launch an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, pending a governmental approval.
"In principle, we are ready for action. The State of Israel thinks that a nuclear-armed Iran is a very bad thing that must be stopped... We're preparing our plans accordingly," he said.
Turning to statements by Israeli leaders asserting that 2012 will be a decisive year regarding Iran's nuclear program, Gantz told Haaretz that "this is a critical year, but ... the problem doesn't necessarily stop on December 31, 2012."
He also noted that the international sanctions and pressure on Iran are having an impact.
"We're in a period when something must happen: either Iran takes its nuclear program to a civilian footing only or the world, perhaps we too, will have to do something. We're closer to the end of the discussions than the middle," he said.