REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -- An Israeli government minister said Thursday that Iran is developing a missile that could strike targets more than 6,000 miles away and thus would be capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States.
Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said the missile project was "aimed at America, not us" and should heighten U.S. concerns about Iran's nuclear project. Tehran maintains its research is designed for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. and some of its allies suspect the regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel has been lobbying hard in recent weeks to convince the U.S., Europe and others in the international community to impose even tougher economic sanctions on Iran.
Yaalon said research on the missile program was being carried out at one of the Iranian facilities rocked by mysterious explosions last fall. In November and December, blasts were reported in the city of Isfahan, at a base outside Tehran and in Yazd.
Some have speculated the explosions were caused by U.S. or Israeli intelligence agencies as part of a covert program to slow any Iranian effort to make a nuclear bomb.
According to Yaalon, only the threat of a punishing military strike would compel the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"The West has the ability to strike, but as long as Iran isn't convinced that there's a determination to follow through with it, they'll continue with their manipulations," he said.
Yaalon's remarks came during a presentation on the final day of Israel's 2012 Herzliya Conference, an annual public policy gathering.
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: Moshe Yaalon, left, attends a session of parliament with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2010; the Israeli minister of strategic affairs warned about Iran's nuclear capabilities at a conference. Credit: Miriam Alster / European Pressphoto Agency