Stephen Harper,Netanyahu
© Reuters/Chris WattiePrime Minister Stephen Harper walks down the Hall of Honour with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his meeting with Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Friday with a public declaration that Iran poses a "grave threat" to global security - adding that Israel is prepared to "defend" itself if necessary.

"The warnings that I and others have been giving over the years will materialize unless Iran is stopped. And that's why I say the international community must do everything it can to stop it. And the danger is not only to Israel - it is obviously a danger to Israel - but I think it's a danger to the whole world," Mr. Netanyahu said.

The Israeli Prime Minister arrived in Canada against a backdrop of growing fears that Israel could unilaterally strike suspect Iranian nuclear facilities to delay or destroy that country's nuclear capabilities.

"They hang gays, they stone women. This what they're doing today without nuclear weapons and imagine what a regime like this would do if they had atomic weapons," Mr. Netanyahu said.

In recent weeks, countries such as the United States and Britain have made it clear that that they are not in favour of such a military move by Israel - arguing it is not yet necessary, and fearing it would spark a much larger conflict in the Middle East.

U.S. President Barack Obama, in advance of his own meeting early next week with Mr. Netanyahu, was blunt in an interview released Friday, saying a premeditated Israeli attack would be "unacceptable."

In some of his toughest comments yet on Tehran's nuclear drive, Mr. Obama also warned that Israel and Iran should take seriously possible U.S. action against Iranian nuclear facilities if sanctions fail to stop the country's atomic ambitions.

"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff," Obama told the Atlantic Monthly magazine in remarks published Friday.

"I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say."

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only but Western nations suspect the Islamic republic is leading a covert program to develop a nuclear weapons capability and is not far from achieving its goal.

In recent weeks, it has not been clear where Canada - which has become a major ally of Israel under the Harper government - stands on the question of a premeditated attack on Iran.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only but Western nations suspect the Islamic republic is leading a covert program to develop a nuclear weapons capability and is not far from achieving its goal.

Netanyahu's government has maintained that all options remain on the table with regard to action on Iran, whose firebrand leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned Israel's right to exist.

As he shook Mr. Harper's hand before their meeting, Mr. Netanyahusaid he wanted to discuss with Mr. Harper "the remarkable turbulence that is shaking the Middle East, and of course Iran's relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"I know from many conversations that we've had that you share my view: That this is a grave threat to the peace and security of the world," he said.

"And I think it's important that the international community not allow this threat to materialize. For Israel, like any sovereign country, we reserve the right to defend ourselves against a country that calls and works for our destruction."

He added that it was "particularly gratifying to be among such good friends here in Ottawa."

For his part, Mr. Harper said Canada's position on a pre-emptive strike on Iran was "very clear."

"We of course recognize the right of Israel to defend itself as a sovereign state, as a Jewish state. That said, we want to see a peaceful resolution of this issue. And we want to see every action taken to get a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Earlier, in the nearby House of Commons chamber, the government appeared to reveal a reluctance to endorse military action against Iran.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to clarify Canada's position on the issue. He asked Mr. Baird if Canada supports countries such as the U.S. and Britain in their concern about a "unilateral" attack by any nation against Iran.

"We obviously don't want to see any military action," Mr. Baird replied.

"That's why we're working hard with the United States and the European Union, with the United Kingdom and others to take every single diplomatic effort necessary to try to ensure that Iran doesn't achieve nuclear weapons status."

"We believe right now the best course to take is every single diplomatic action. And that's exactly what Canada is doing."

Earlier, at a news conference, Mr. Rae said that his party shares the deep international concern about Iran's nuclear ambitions and horrific human rights record.

But he said any action taken should be done on a multilateral basis - not just by one country.

"This is not a subject which affects Israel alone. It's a question that touches countries around the world. None of us want to see a nuclear-armed Iran. None of us want to see an increase in tensions and conflict in the Middle East. I think it's very important that we look at this not simply as an issue between Israel and Iran, but understand that it's an issue that has much broader implications for the world."

This is the Israeli leader's second visit to Canada in three years.

The last time he was in Ottawa, in May 2010, Mr. Netanyahu was forced to cut his trip short to deal with the fallout of an Israeli commando raid on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. Nine activists died in the highly controversial boarding and several others were wounded.

This time, Iran's nuclear ambitions will likely be the top issue, with Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Harper expected to brainstorm ways to encourage and co-ordinate more international action against the Islamic republic.

This will likely include discussing a strategy to encourage the Obama administration to take a tougher stand, particularly an overt threat of military action, should Iran continue moving ahead with its nuclear program.

There has been a growing sense in recent months that Israel is on the verge of attacking Iran, as the latter continues to defy the international community and move ahead on its nuclear program, which many fear is aimed at building an atomic arsenal.

Mr. Harper and Mr. Netanyahu have developed a close personal relationship over the years as the Conservative government has made Canada one of Israel's strongest international supporters. Mr. Netanyahu will publicly thank Mr. Harper for his "principled" support of Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu is also expected to meet with Gov. Gen. David Johnston during the visit.

According to the Ottawa-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, Mr. Netanyahu will speak at a Jewish community breakfast Sunday before leaving for the United States later that day.