Barak addresses delegates at the annual meeti
Barak addresses delegates at the annual meetiReuters

Israeli officials said on Thursday that military action against Iran needed to stay on the table, AFP reported.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the threat of military action was vital to efforts against Iran's nuclear program.

"There will be more attempts to try and negotiate, but there will always be in the horizon a military option, because if the Iranians think it's only economic and political, they won't pay attention," Peres told global political and business leaders at the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Barak, who has announced plans to retire after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu forms a new government, told the forum that stronger sanctions were needed against Iran.

"There is a need for much more drastic sanctions, a kind of quarantine of all imports and exports," Barak said, though he admitted that China and Russia were unlikely to agree.

He said he understood Washington's desire to have "all alternatives" exhausted before military action over Iran, but that there was also a need to be ready to carry out targeted attacks.

"If worst comes to worst, there should be a readiness and capability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant timeframe and probably convince them... the world is determined to block them," Barak said, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger warned of a crisis over Tehran's nuclear ambitions in the "very foreseeable future".

“For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching," he said, according to AFP.

"People who have advanced their view will have to come to a determination about how to react or about the consequences of non-reaction," said Kissinger. “I believe this point will be reached within a very foreseeable future.”

Kissinger said negotiations with Iran needed to be given "a real chance" and that "unilateral action by Israel would be a desperate last resort."

He said he expected "Iran to be high on the agenda" of U.S. President Barack Obama's new administration, and said failure to deal with the question could lead to a spread of nuclear weapons in the region.

"That would be a turning point in human history," Kissinger warned.

A few months ago, Kissinger said that a decision to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities should be an American decision, dismissing Netanyahu’s demand that Obama set “red lines” that Iran cannot cross in its nuclear program.

In a speech given this week, after he was reelected for a third term, Netanyahu said that one of the principles of his new coalition would be preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.

In November Netanyahu indicated that by the time his next term as Prime Minister is over, Iran will not have a nuclear weapons program, stressing that if it is necessary, he will lead an independent Israeli attack against Iran, even without the support of the United States.

On Thursday, Obama's choice to be the next secretary of state, John Kerry, said that it is vital for the United States to confront immediate and dangerous challenges, including the threat from Iran's nuclear program.

"We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said. "And I repeat here today: Our policy is not containment, it is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance.”