Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told NPR on Thursday that he would "consider" meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
"I haven't been offered [to meet Rouhani]. If I'm offered, I'd consider it, but it's not an issue. If I meet with these people I'd stick this question in their face: Are you prepared to dismantle your program completely? Because you can't stay with the [nuclear] enrichment," Netanyahu told Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition.
The NPR interview was one of eight high-profile interviews that Netanyahu gave to American media since his speech on Tuesday at the UN, where he slammed Rouhani and vowed that Israel would take action alone, if necessary, to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
In addition to Inskeep, there were interviews over the past two days with BBC’s Persian language service, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, the Hispanic Univision network, CNN, Fox News, PBS/CBS and one of Sunday’s major political talk shows.
The prime minister warned that Iran is developing missiles that can reach the US East Coast.
"They only have one purpose: nuclear payloads. And, by the way, not for us [Israel]. They have missiles that can reach [Israel]. Those ICBM missiles, projectiles, are for you, to reach the Eastern seaboard of the United States, which they'll do in a few years," Netanyahu asserted.
He said Rouhani is offering the West a "fake deal" on Tehran's nuclear program in return for a relief in sanctions.
"What he wants to do is to relieve the sanctions, but advance the program, which is essentially what he did in 2003. He just wants a repeat on it on a bigger scale," Netanyahu said, warning against falling into Rouhani's trap.
"[Rouhani] said, 'while we were talking to the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in Isfahan.' And he says, 'by creating a calm environment, a calm international environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan,'" the prime minister said, quoting the then-chief nuclear negotiator Rouhani from his book National Security and Nuclear Diplomacy.
According to Netanyahu, Rouhani is offering to make "minor concessions, cosmetic concessions" in return for a partial lifting of sanctions, which will lead to a full collapse of the sanctions regime because many countries in the world are waiting to abandon the sanctions. This, in turn, will allow Iran to maintain its nuclear weapons capability, while achieving sanctions relief.
Netanyahu also responded to suggestions, also made by Iran, to allow the Islamic Republic to keep lower-grade enriched uranium for what Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
"In the case of Syria... that's exactly what was put on the table and demanded — a complete dismantling of the chemical weapons program. You didn't say, well, give me 20 percent of the chemical weapons and we'll take off the pressures on you and then we'll see... In the case of Iran, there has to be a totality of demand," he said.
He also asserted that Iran's claim that its nuclear program is for energy purposes are misleading.
"There are 17 countries in the world, including your neighbors Canada and Mexico, including Sweden and Switzerland, including Spain, including a country like Indonesia... some very substantial countries, they have nuclear energy programs, but they don't have enrichment," he said.
"I don't know why Iran wants it because it's swimming with not only oil but natural gas; for the next 200 years it will suffice for all their energy needs. The reason they insist on enrichment is because they want to maintain the path to nuclear weapons," he continued.
"Countries that want just civilian nuclear energy do not have heavy water for plutonium and do not have centrifuges for enrichment," he concluded.
For these reasons, Netanyahu urged the US to reach a deal on a full halt of the Iranian nuclear program, that does not allow nuclear enrichment, as well as does not enable the heavy-water route for plutonium to continue.
When pressed about whether Israel has nuclear weapons, Netanyahu stressed that while he's not willing to disclose what Israel has or doesn't have, "Israel has no designs to destroy anyone. We have not called for the destruction of a people, the annihilation of Iran or any other country," the prime minister said.
"But that's exactly what Iran's doctrinaire, messianic, apocalyptic regime — it's a terrorist regime. It's applying terrorism on five continents as we speak," he continued.
He warned that "a regime with unbridled, radical ambitions should not get awesome power, because once they do, they will unleash it."
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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