OTTAWA - Israel's defence minister urged the international community to step up efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and warned his Canadian counterpart Wednesday that all options for dealing with the crisis remain in play.
Ehud Barak, who'd earlier hinted of a possible military strike against the Islamic republic, kept the sabre-rattling to a minimum and even shut down questions about rising tensions with Tehran.
"I believe the world will join hands and live up to its commitment to block Iran from turning nuclear," he said following a meeting with Defence Minister Peter MacKay. "And we've said all along to friends all around the world not to remove any option off the table and I'm glad to notice many leaders ... repeating this very phrase."
The almost conciliatory tone comes a day ahead of a key UN atomic agency meeting in Vienna, where countries are grappling on what steps to take in the wake of a report by the watchdog.
The agency, in a blunt assessment, warned on Nov. 8 that Tehran was more than likely on the way to acquiring nuclear weapons and pointed to several troubling signs.
"We think Iran is a major threat to any conceivable regional order. It's a real challenge to the whole world," Barack said.
Both Russia and China have dug in their heels on the question of increased UN sanctions and threatened to vote against them if any such resolution appears before the 35-member nuclear agency board.
Barak, in previous statements, has played down the consequences of a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, even though military experts have said it would take a sustained bombing campaign to dislodge the underground test sites.
MacKay described the UN report as "stark" and a potential wake up call for the international community.
Meanwhile, media reports in the U.S. have said Israel is lobbying discretely for the UN to impose "painful" sanctions.
Unnamed officials, speaking with the New York Times, argue that a new round of crippling sanctions could be effective, even if Russian and Chinese object.
The Israelis are also apparently asking other nations to hobble Iran diplomatically, economically and technologically.
Barak praised the Harper government's stalwart support for his nation Wednesday and said he looked forward to closer co-operation, especially in matters of defence.
Canada and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding recently that was meant to act a framework for closer defence ties. It was one of the biggest items on the agenda between the two men on Wednesday.
A final agreement has yet to be struck.
MacKay was asked whether an eventual deal would bind Canada militarily to come to aid of Israel in the event of a future attack.
"That's not the element of co-operation" that's under discussion, he said. "But we're not going to negotiate in public."
Canada already has relatively strong defence industry ties with the Jewish state. The Canadian air force used an Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicle — the Heron — for surveillance missions in Afghanistan.
Despite the end of the combat mission in Kandahar, the country is still in the market for drones, which the Israeli Defence Force uses extensively.