Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu played the “Iran card” on Sunday in calling
for Israel’s various political parties to join him and form a broad coalition to
face the country’s massive challenges.
Speaking at the start of the
weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred to last week’s talks between Iran and
the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain – in Kazakhstan,
and said the Iranians once again succeeded in buying time.
from these talks is that the only thing that was achieved was to stall for time
during which Iran intends to continue enriching nuclear material for an atomic
bomb,” the prime minister said. “And it is indeed continuing and getting closer
toward this goal.”
Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy
Sherman, who represented the US at the talks, briefed Netanyahu’s national
security adviser Ya’acov Amidror late last week on the Kazakhstan
“I must say that at this time our enemies are uniting in
order to bring about not only atomic weapons that could be used against us, but
other deadly weapons that are piling up around us,” Netanyahu said, in an
apparent reference to Israel’s concerns that chemical weapons and advanced
weapons systems in Syria will fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist organizations.
“At a time when they
are coming together and uniting their efforts, we also must come together and
unite our forces to repel these dangers,” he said.
added, in a reference to the current coalition negotiations, “this is not
happening. I will continue my efforts in the coming days to try and unite forces
and bring them together ahead of the major national and international tasks that
The Prime Minister’s Office, meanwhile, would not relate to
speculation that – just as Netanyahu used the Iranian and Syrian challenges on
Sunday to call for a broad coalition – the Prime Minister’s Office leaked on
Saturday for political purposes that Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah met in
Amman last week to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic
According to media speculation, news of the meeting could
conceivably help Netanyahu to entice Labor Party head Shelly Yacimovich into the
coalition, because it presents Netanyahu as making efforts to advance the
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office would not
confirm or deny reports of the meeting.
Meanwhile, Iranian media reported
on Sunday that the country is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment
centrifuges. Tehran said earlier this year that it would install the
new-generation centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central
Iran, but Sunday’s reports in Iranian agencies appeared to be the first time a
specific figure had been given.
The announcement, which comes after talks
between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan about its nuclear work ended with an
agreement to meet again, underlines Iran’s continued refusal to bow to Western
pressure to curb its nuclear program.
The International Atomic Energy
Agency said in February that 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty
centrifuge casings had been put in place at the facility near the town of
Natanz, but were not yet operating.
Iranian media on Sunday paraphrased
Fereydoun Abbasi- Davani, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization,
as saying Iran was producing 3,000 new-generation centrifuges.
production line of these centrifuges has reached an end and soon the early
generations of these centrifuges with low efficiency will be set aside,”
Abbasi-Davani said in statements in the Iranian city of Isfahan, according to
the Fars news agency.
An IAEA note informing member states in January
about Iran’s plans implied the country could install up to 3,000 or so of the
Natanz is designed for tens of thousands of the
machines. If launched successfully, such machines could enable Iran to speed up
significantly its accumulation of material that could be used in a nuclear
Iran has been trying for years to develop centrifuges more
efficient than the erratic 1970s IR-1 model it now uses, but their introduction
for full-scale production has been dogged by delays and technical hurdles,
experts and diplomats say.
Reuters contributed to this report. •