Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday dismissed a new surge of optimism in the international community that Iran might be prepared to halt its nuclear program.
"I have seen no evidence whatsoever that Iran is serous about stopping its nuclear weapons program," Netanyahu said at the tail end of his meeting in Prague with the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus.
In their meeting, Netanyahu expressed concern about talks by the six powers — US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Great Britain — on Iran, set to take place in Baghdad on May 23. These talks follow a meeting held in Istanbul in April.
"It looks as though they (Iran) see these talks as another opportunity to deceive and delay, just like North Korean did for years," Netanyahu said. "They may try to go from meeting to meeting with empty promises. They may agree to something in principle but not implement it. They may even agree to implement something that does not materially derail their nuclear weapons program," he said.
"Iran is good at playing this chess game. They know that sometimes you have to sacrifice a pawn to save the King," Netanyahu said.
"The goal of these negotiations should be very clear. Freeze all enrichment inside Iran. Remove all enriched material and dismantle [the uranium enrichment facility near the city of] Qom," he said.
"When this goal is achieved I will be the first to applaud. Until then count me among the skeptics," he said.
Netanyahu arrived in the Czech Republic earlier on Thursday accompanied by seven cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. After the prime minister met with his counterpart, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas, the Israeli and Czech delegations signed a joint declaration expressing “concern at Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium for military purposes, even as it threatens to destroy Israel.”
In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Necas said that the Czech Republic would like to continue to be a strong supporter of Israel within the European Union. “We are concerned about the Iranian missile and nuclear programs,” he said.
Netanyahu's comments came amid optimism expressed by diplomats involved in Iran-International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) negotiations over the former's contentious nuclear program. Iran is seeking a framework deal over its atomic activity, which it says is needed before it can consider a request by UN inspectors to visit the Parchin military site where they believe explosives tests relevant for developing nuclear weapons may have been carried out.
The IAEA and Iran held talks this week in Vienna and are due to meet again on May 21, two days before Tehran and the six global powers discuss the future of its disputed nuclear program in Baghdad.
Two previous rounds of talks in Tehran early this year failed to make any notable progress. But both sides were more upbeat after the May 14-15 meeting in the Austrian capital, raising hopes of a possible outcome when talks resume on Monday.
A non-Western envoy said: "Progress has been made. There are still one or two outstanding issues. My impression is that both sides have the willingness to move forward."
Iran denies having a covert atomic bomb agenda, saying it is enriching uranium only for a future network of civilian nuclear power stations and a medical isotope reactor.
Jpost.com and Reuters