Iran is acquiring new centrifuges that reduce the time it takes to enrich
uranium, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s
cabinet meting, citing this as one reason Israel now needs a national unity
Netanyahu repeated his call from Saturday night – when
President Shimon Peres formally charged him with forming a coalition – for a
national unity government, saying the country was at a “decisive point” in its
“The next government’s primary objective will be to stop the
weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
“This is a task [that
is] becoming more difficult because Iran is acquiring new centrifuges that
reduce the enrichment time. We cannot accept this.”
Tehran announced last
week that it was upgrading its nuclear enrichment equipment at the Natanz
nuclear plant, something that will speed up the uranium enrichment process. A
senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said following that announcement
that while the West was discussing where and when to meet Iran next, Iran was
speedily working toward getting the bomb.
“The international community
must not let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister
Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday that the six world powers known as the P5+1 – the
US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany –have proposed holding a new
round of talks on its nuclear program in Kazakhstan on February 25.
have good news – I heard yesterday that the P5+1 or EU3+3 will be meeting in
Kazakhstan on February 25,” he said at the Munich Security Conference. He did
not clarify whether Iran had agreed to the meeting.
A European diplomat
said Iran had still not given a firm answer regarding the proposed meeting. The
two sides have been haggling over a date and venue for new talks for
Salehi said he would give “positive consideration” to comments by
US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday in which he held out the possibility of
direct talks with Iran.
Salehi said there was “no red line for bilateral
negotiations” as long as the other side had a real intention to resolve the
If the talks do indeed take place, it will be the first
negotiations since last June, when talks were held in Moscow.
followed two other rounds of discussions: the first in Istanbul in April, and
the second in Baghdad in May. All three rounds ended without any
In addition to dealing with Iran, Netanyahu said at the cabinet
meeting that there were three other main issues that the government will have to
deal with during its first year.
The first, he said, was to approve “a
responsible budget” and reform that will bring about a lower cost of
The second issue, he said, was to significantly increase haredi
participation in sharing the military and tax burden without “causing a rift in
the nation.” And the third issue, he said, was to restart a “realistic and
responsible” diplomatic process.
Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud
ministers before the cabinet meeting that “the world was not stopping” for
Israel’s coalition negotiations, and that just as the financial markets were not
waiting for a coalition in Israel, neither was the diplomatic process on
Netanyahu said the Europeans were working on various plans to
jump-start the diplomatic process. Israel Radio reported that French Foreign
Minister Laurent Fabius met with his Jordanian counterpart in Paris over the
weekend and said France was working on a new diplomatic initiative, and that the
time was now ripe – after the US and Israeli elections – to renew direct
negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state
Reuters contributed to this report.