WASHINGTON  - The United States said Friday it had “eyes” and “visibility” inside Iran’s nuclear program and would know if Tehran had made a “breakout” move toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The comment by White House spokesman Jay Carney followed Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s remark that new US intelligence suggested that the threat from Iran was becoming more “urgent.”

Carney declined to comment on intelligence matters in detail but said that Washington and Israel were agreed on Iran’s ambitions and its nuclear program.

“I would also say that we have eyes - we have visibility into the program, and we would know if and when Iran made what’s called a breakout move towards acquiring a weapon.”

Breakout capability is commonly understood to be the point when a state acquires the knowledge, capability and materials to build a nuclear bomb if it wants to. Carney said later in his briefing that he was referring to International Atomic Energy Agency officials mandated to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites because Tehran is a signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But many experts believe there has been substantial infiltration and sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.

Military sites in Iran that do not have confirmed nuclear activities are off-limits to inspectors unless provided for by agreement or under the terms of an Additional Protocol to the NPT that Iran dropped in 2006.

Carney’s comments came on a day on which speculation about a possible military strike on Iran’s nuclear program ran rampant in the Israeli press. The US has however said it has not taken a military option off the table.

In an interview on Thursday, Barak said a recent US intelligence report made the Iranian issue more “urgent” and had moved closer to the US position.

The US also fears the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah may be planning imminent attacks in Europe and around the world, a senior security official in Washington said Friday.

“Our assessment is that Hezbollah and Iran will both continue to maintain a heightened level of terrorist activity and operations in the near future,” said Daniel Benjamin, the US State Department’s counter-terrorism coordinator.

Meanwhile, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he would be making “a big mistake” if he attended an international summit in Iran.

“Mr. Secretary General, you do not belong in Tehran,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office quoted the premier as telling Ban in a telephone conversation.

“The PM criticised the secretary general’s trip and said he did not see any reason for his visit to a country whose rulers are anti-Semitic and have the goal of destroying Israel,” it added.