11/19/2011 03:18 EST | Updated 01/19/2012 05:12 EST

Israel's defence minister takes aim at Iran, nuclear weapons, Syrian president

HALIFAX - Israel's defence minister took aim on Saturday at Iran's purported nuclear ambitions and the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria.

Appearing before the Halifax International Security Forum, Ehud Barak continued to trumpet his country's message that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "unacceptable."

"We think we should be, as the rest of the world, determined to prevent them from turning nuclear," Barak told an audience of security and defence experts from around the world.

Barak would not say whether Israel would launch military action against Iran without the help of other countries.

A recent report by the UN atomic agency warned that Tehran was more than likely on the way to acquiring nuclear weapons — an allegation Iran denies.

Barak met last week with Defence Minister Peter MacKay in Ottawa, where he praised the Canadian government's stalwart support for Israel and urged closer co-operation in matters of defence.

Canada and Israel recently signed a memorandum of understanding that was meant to act as a framework for closer defence ties.

Barak also told the forum Saturday that he believes Syrian President Bashar Assad has "gone beyond the point of no return" as the bloodshed continues in his country.

The UN estimates more than 3,500 people have been killed as part of the eight-month-old uprising.

Barak said the fate of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was captured and killed by rebel troops last month, could make Assad "even more brutal."

However, Barak also said he believes cracks are beginning to show in support for Assad and suggested his regime could come to an end in the next year.

"There is no way he can resume his authority or legitimacy over his people," he said.