(PTI) Israel has to strike Iran's Bushehr nuclear power facility within the "next eight days" if it wants to foil Tehran's nuclear ambitions as Russia will load a shipment of atomic fuel into the plant's core this week, a former US envoy to the UN has said.
John Bolton made the comments in an interview to the Fox Business Network, a week after Russia announced that it will begin loading the Bushehr reactor with uranium fuel from August 21.
The former US diplomat warned that once the Bushehr facility is operational it will be too late for a military air strike against Iran because such an attack would spread radiation and harm Iranian civilians.
"Once that uranium, once those fuel rods are very close to the reactor, certainly once they're in the reactor, attacking it means a release of radiation, no question about it," Bolton said.
"So if Israel is going to do anything against Bushehr it has to move in the next eight days," The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.
However, she saw the possibility of a military strike "unlikely", even though he believes that without the attack both Israel and the US would be in trouble.
"Iran will achieve something that no other opponent of Israel, no other enemy of the United States in the Middle East really has and that is a functioning nuclear reactor," he noted.
The former US envoy described the completion of the reactor as a "significant victory for Iran."
"They will be beginning the process of brining online a 1000 megawatt reactor. When it becomes fully operational the spent fuel coming out of the reactor will be plutonium which could be reprocessed chemically and used for nuclear weapons," Bolton said.
He also emphasised that Iran was "on the verge of achieving something that Saddam Hussein was not able to achieve, Bashar al-Assad in Syria was not able to achieve and that's getting a second route to nuclear weapons."
"It is a very very significant step forward for the Iranian nuclear programme," Bolton said.
Criticising Russia for its support to the nuclear programme, he said that Moscow plays both sides.
"The Russians are, as they often do, playing both sides against the middle. The idea of being able to stick a thumb in America's eye always figures prominently in Moscow," Bolton concluded.
Israel has dubbed Iran's nuclear programme an existential threat, often threatening with military strike, but has been publicly backing diplomatic efforts to impose economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic to convince it to give up on its nuclear ambitions.
Tehran maintains that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.