OTTAWA – In advance of his much anticipated meeting Monday with US President
Barack Obama on Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spelled out the
conditions Tehran should meet before the world once again negotiates with it
over its nuclear program.
“Right now, Iran is feeling the pressure of
economic sanctions, and it could try to evade that pressure by entering talks,”
Netanyahu told a press conference after emerging from a meeting with Canadian
Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa on Friday.
Israel wanted to see a
“peaceful solution” to the Iranian crisis, he said, but Tehran must be kept from
again using negotiations to gain time and advance its nuclear program.
avoid “falling into this trap,” Netanyahu said, the international community
should place three conditions on Tehran before entering negotiations: Iran must
dismantle its nuclear facility at Qom; stop all uranium enrichment inside the
country; and remove all uranium already enriched beyond 3.5 percent out of the
“Anything short of that would enable Iran to continue its
nuclear program by other means, which is exactly what they have done up to now,”
The prime minister’s comments come as voices are being raised in
Iran about a willingness to negotiate over its nuclear program, and the latest
round of stiff sanctions is being felt inside the Islamic
Netanyahu dismissed speculation that during his meeting with Obama on Monday he will ask for the US to spell out its red lines regarding
Iran, beyond which it would consider military action.
“I have no
intention of establishing red lines for the US,” the prime minister said, adding
that Israel wanted to maintain its own freedom of action “against threats to
eliminate us from the map.”
Netanyahu’s comment was an acknowledgment
that if Israel asked for a great deal of specificity in US plans, America would
then ask the same of Israel, thereby significantly reducing the country’s
Harper, considered perhaps Israel’s best friend among
the leaders of the world, skirted the issue when asked whether a preemptive
Israeli strike on Iran would be acceptable to Canada.
Saying that Ottawa
has been “very clear about the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran, its intentions
and capabilities,” Harper added that in terms of “hypothetical situations”
Canada’s position was clear: “We of course recognize Israel’s right 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 solution to the situation.”
Senior officials in the Prime
Minister’s Office described the reception Netanyahu received in Ottawa,
including a welcoming ceremony with military honors at Parliament Hill, as
Netanyahu acknowledged the extremely strong ties
between the two countries, telling Harper that he was carrying “very warm
feelings” for Canada “not only from myself, and my delegation, but also from the
people of Israel.
“Perhaps when we speak of the difficulties in our area
and troubles we all face, it is particularly encouraging to come to Canada, and
later on the United States, and know that I stand among friends who share the
same values and the same goals. You are such a friend,” Netanyahu told
Harper met Netanyahu for a private meeting before the press
conference, and then hosted him for an informal luncheon. On Saturday, Harper
and his wife invited Netanyahu and his wife to lunch at his official
Netanyahu, while still in Ottawa on Sunday morning, is
expected to listen to Obama’s speech to AIPAC, before meeting Canadian Jewish
leaders and then opposition head Bob Rae. He is scheduled to leave Ottawa for
Washington late on Sunday afternoon. Netanyahu will address AIPAC on Monday.