Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned that Iran would have "a price to pay" if it does not back down from its nuclear ambitions, hinting broadly that Israel might be forced to take action -- his strongest words yet about the Iranian threat.
Talking to reporters on Thursday on his way home from a three-day trip to Moscow, Olmert did not specifically threaten to cripple Iran's nuclear programme in a military strike, as it did 25 years ago in Iraq when it sent combat planes to destroy an unfinished nuclear reactor there.
But he repeated what he said a day earlier after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow -- the Iranians "have to be afraid" of the consequences of their intransigence.
"They have to understand that if they object to every compromise, there will be a price to pay," Olmert said.
Israel rejects Tehran's claim that its nuclear programme is peaceful, designed solely to produce energy.
In the past, Israel has said it would not lead a campaign against Iran's nuclear programme, rather acting in concert with world powers that are similarly worried about Iran's intentions.
But with Iran rejecting various compromise proposals and insisting on enriching uranium -- a process key to developing nuclear weapons -- Olmert has been raising the stakes with increasingly defiant rhetoric.
Israel cannot reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran, he said, and "there comes a time when you have to do damage control."
"A red line must be drawn that cannot be crossed," he said, without specifying what that line was.