Israeli election front-runner Benjamin Netanyahu says that keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons ranks above the economy in the challenges facing the leaders of the 21st century.

He says the global financial meltdown was reversible but the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a "fanatic radical regime" was not.

He said that "we have never had, since the dawn of the nuclear age, nuclear weapons in the hands of such a fanatical regime."

The hawkish Likud Party leader spoke forcefully Thursday at the World Economic Forum on the need to lower taxes and increase competitiveness in the Israeli economy if he emerges as prime minister after Feb. 10 elections.