Amid concern in Jerusalem that the European economic crisis is tilting some EU countries against wanting to step up sanctions against Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi Wednesday that strengthening those sanctions was imperative.
“As hard as it is, the economic sanctions have to be intensified,” Netanyahu said, adding that he appreciated the efforts of Italy and other European countries.
Netanyahu, in public comments before the meeting, reiterated his position for the international community to “set a clear red line for Iran that it knows it cannot go beyond in pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
The prime minister’s comments followed by a day President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s acknowledgement that sanctions were taking a toll on the Iranian economy.
“There are some problems in selling oil and we are trying to manage them,” Ahmadinejad said on state television, according to AFP.
According to the report, Ahmadinejad also outlined ways his country is working to bypass the sanctions, including telling “an oil ship which route it takes.”
The Iranian president expressed confidence his country would continue to survive the Western attempts against it.
“We have oil and the world needs it,” he said. The EU clamped an embargo on Iranian oil that went into effect in July.
Netanyahu, in his meeting with Terzi, also called upon the EU to declare “Iran’s proxy Hezbollah” a terrorist organization and place it on its terror blacklist. Such a move, he said, would advance “the cause of security and peace.”
Hezbollah, he said, is “exactly” a terrorist organization. “It is the world’s leading terror organization, and Europe could contribute much by declaring it for what it is.”
Despite numerous requests by Israel, most recently following the July terrorist attack in Bulgaria, Europe has consistently refrained from blacklisting Hezbollah, with the common argument being that the organization, along with its military wing, has a legitimate political wing that is a key player in Lebanese politics.
In a related development, and in a follow- up to Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah’s statement earlier this week that United States bases in the region would be targeted if Israel attacks Iran, an Iranian military commander said Tehran made no distinction between US and Israeli interests and would retaliate against both countries if attacked.
“The Zionist regime separated from America has no meaning, and we must not recognize Israel as separate from America,” Ali Fadavi, naval commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency.
“On this basis, today only the Americans have taken a threatening stance towards the Islamic Republic,” Fadavi said. “If the Americans commit the smallest folly, they will not leave the region safely.”
The comments came after the White House denied a Yediot Aharonot report that it was negotiating with Tehran to keep out of a future Israel-Iran war.
Last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that while Israel would expect US backing if it decided to strike Iran, Washington would not be drawn into a conflict.
“I don’t want to be complicit if they choose to do it,” Britain’s The Guardian newspaper quoted Dempsey as saying.
Reuters and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.