Iran could build a nuclear bomb within months if it decides to weaponize its atomic enrichment program, according to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
In an interview with CBC's Power & Politics host Evan Solomon, Baird said he doesn't believe Iran has made that decision yet — but warned the country could move "very quickly" once it does.
"When they're enriching uranium to 20 per cent, when they've got the volume of materials.… When you're putting all the ingredients in front of you, it obviously wouldn't take long to make the decision to do it," he said.
"They're certainly moving to be able to be in that position, then they could certainly dash to the end which could be done in as few as nine or as many as 18 months."
Baird called the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran "unfathomable," and said it would inevitably lead to nuclear proliferation right across the region, which the minister said is a concern for the entire planet.
"The real concern is what would it do to security in the region," he said. "And frankly, Arab states are just as concerned as Israel is with a nuclear-armed Iran...you also look at the potential for proliferation — other countries wanting to acquire nuclear weapons to protect themselves from the threat of Iran."
Baird's comments come as the United States and Europe urged Iran to use upcoming talks with world powers to defuse concerns it has plans to develop nuclear arms — concerns Tehran insists are based on "fake evidence" created to cause the country economic harm.
While international talks are working to persuade Iran to end its nuclear ambitions, Baird said it remains a huge challenge to "de-escalate" the situation.
"I'm skeptical of Iran's willingness to engage in meaningful discussions on this, but let's take them at their word and let's go through this diplomatic exercise and hope for the best," he said.
"Obviously President [Barack] Obama has said all options are on the table and we're watching the situation very closely and offering our full support to the diplomatic initiative."
"All options" means that nothing is off the table — including a pre-emptive strike against Iran, Baird said. But Canada's position remains to explore and exhaust all diplomatic efforts, he added.
Baird also commented on the dramatic power shifts in Greece and France, where voters rejected candidates pushing austerity measures. In France, Socialist François Holland ousted conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy with a platform of moving from austerity to restoring growth.
"Obviously when the economy is sour, governments tend to get defeated," he said. "Obviously, the situation in Greece is very, very different. Obviously there’s some tough medicine that’s required and sometimes the patient doesn’t like it."