By JoAnne Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday the world must make clear that Iran would face "credible military action" if sanctions do not shut down Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
Netanyahu, in an interview on CNN, said it was clear Iran was pursing its nuclear ambitions despite international sanctions and was getting a lot closer to obtaining nuclear arms.
"They have enriched enough material now almost for three nuclear bombs," he said. "They still have to re-enrich it again but that is what they are doing.
"The only thing that will work is if Iran knew that if sanctions fail there will be a credible military option."
Asked what would constitute a credible military action, Netanyahu said: "It means action that will knock out their nuclear facility."
The U.N. Security Council has imposed sanctions on Tehran for refusing to freeze its uranium enrichment program, which Western powers suspect is aimed at producing a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies Israeli and Western allegations that it is enriching uranium to produce atomic arms and maintains that its program is for peaceful energy needs.
Netanyahu said if military action was taken, he would prefer that it be lead by the United States.
He said a nuclear-armed Iran would not be just a concern for Israel because it would pose the risk of proliferation.
"This is not just our problem. This is the problem of Europe, and the United States," he said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Netanyahu also said he was not surprised that Saudi Arabia had dispatched forces to Bahrain after weeks of pro-democracy protests in the Gulf Arab island state.
"I think they are concerned with a possible Iranian takeover of Bahrain, which would put Iran effectively within spitting distance of the Arabian Peninsula," Netanyahu said of Saudi Arabia.
"Saudi Arabia is working to protect its own interests. But there is a very large global interest in making sure the world's oil wells, that the largest reserves of the world's oil supply do not fall into Iranian or pro-Iranian hands," he said.
Asked about the pro-democracy protests sweeping the Arab world, Netanyahu said the Middle East would have "a brilliant future" with real democratic change.
However, he said that if Iran remains immune to change "and meddles in other places and transforms them into so-called Islamist republics... I would say that is the worst nightmare."
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Bill "Trott)