Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on the United States and the international community Monday to halt Iran’s nuclear program by refusing to export refined petroleum to that country.
If the United Nation’s Security Council fails to impose this kind of “crippling sanction” on Iran, then the US and the international community should take this step on their own, Netanyahu said, in a lengthy interview with ABC.
“If you stop… Iran from importing refined petroleum – that’s a fancy word for gasoline – then Iran simply doesn’t have refining capacity, and this regime comes to a halt. I think that’s crippling sanctions,” the prime minister said.
“Now if the UN Security Council doesn’t pass it because they’ll dilute the resolution to get acquiescence of their members, then certainly the United States and other willing partners in the international community can enforce these sanctions outside the Security Council,” he went on.
“There is a way to deliver these crippling sanctions. This should be done now,” Netanyahu asserted.
The prime minister spoke on the same day that an adviser to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said approval had been granted for a new uranium enrichment facility to further develop its nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad has approved the location for the new facility, his top adviser Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said, without specifying where the site was. The new enrichment plant would be Iran’s third.
Samareh Hashemi said work would begin “upon the president’s order,” but did not specify when, the ILNA news agency reported Monday.
Iran’s government approved plans in November to build 10 new uranium-enrichment facilities. Earlier this year, the country’s nuclear chief announced that construction on two of the 10 would begin during this Iranian calendar year, which runs from March 2010 to March 2011.
Iran currently has two enrichment plants – one operating in the central city of Natanz and a second, near the city of Qom, that has not begun enriching.
The United Nations has demanded enrichment be suspended because the process can be used to produce a nuclear bomb as well as fuel for a nuclear reactor.
Still, in an apparent attempt to ward off new UN sanctions, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country wanted to hold further discussions on a nuclear fuel deal that was originally touted as a possible way to ease the standoff but has since hit a dead end.
The United States and its allies are trying to rally support for new UN sanctions on Iran over its refusal to stop enrichment. Iran denies any intention to produce a bomb, saying its nuclear program aims only to generate electricity.
Netanyahu told ABC a nuclear Iran was dangerous because its government could make use of the weapon or give it to terrorists who could place a crude device in the US, Europe or Israel.
A nuclear Iran is “the biggest issue facing our times, and I think that... President [Barack Obama] has expressed his understanding of how serious a challenge it is,” Netanyahu said.
On Tuesday, a US Defense Department report said Iran posed a military danger to the US and that by 2015, with sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching America.
The US has been lobbying hard with Russia and China, which wield veto power in the UN Security Council and have traditionally been reluctant to impose sanctions on Iran. The UN has already imposed three rounds of limited financial sanctions.
Mottaki said Iran would be sending delegations to China and Russia, as well as to temporary council-members Lebanon and Uganda, for talks on the moribund nuclear fuel deal.
Mottaki said Iran wanted direct talks about the deal with all the Security Council members, except one with which it would have indirect talks – a reference to the United States, which with Teheran has no relations.
The talks halted after Iran rejected a UN-backed plan last year that offered nuclear fuel rods in exchange for Teheran’s stock of lower-level enriched uranium – a swap that would have curbed the country’s capacity to make a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu told ABC that it was important to move swiftly to prevent a nuclear Iran.
“We have a lot less time with each day that passes. And the crucial thing is to use the time available for forceful international action led by the United States. If you can, go through the Security Council. If you can’t, go outside the Security Council,” he said.
“If a community of concerned nations, led by the United States, is seriously determined to stop it, this can be stopped,” said Netanyahu.
The House and Senate are pushing bills to block the export of refined
petroleum, but the administration has reservations about the bill,
expressing concern that it will disrupt efforts to garner support in
the UN Security Council for further sanctions against Iran.
When quizzed by ABC about Israel’s refusal to sign the nuclear
proliferation treaty, Netanyahu said the treaty did not guarantee
responsible behavior with respect to nuclear material and weapons.
He noted that Iraq’s former president Saddam Hussein had signed it and
built a nuclear reactor, and that Libya had also signed it and at the
same time had a secret nuclear program.
“We will not change our policies. I want to make it clear. Those people
– those states who have signed the NPT – have violated it left and
right. And the Middle East – the problem in the Middle East is not this
or that treaty or these or [those] signatories,” he asserted.
“If the world changes... if the Middle East one day advances to a
messianic age where the lion lies down with the lambs, then you can ask
me this question again,” Netanyahu said.AP contributed to this report.