PM: Stopping Iran will be objective of new gov't

Netanyahu vows to pass "more responsible" budget, restart peace process, increase haredi share in national burden.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Iran is acquiring new centrifuges that reduce the time it takes to enrich uranium, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meting, citing this as one reason Israel now needs a national unity government.
Netanyahu repeated his call from Saturday night – when President Shimon Peres formally charged him with forming a coalition – for a national unity government, saying the country was at a “decisive point” in its history.
“The next government’s primary objective will be to stop the weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.
“This is a task [that is] becoming more difficult because Iran is acquiring new centrifuges that reduce the enrichment time. We cannot accept this.”
Tehran announced last week that it was upgrading its nuclear enrichment equipment at the Natanz nuclear plant, something that will speed up the uranium enrichment process. A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said following that announcement that while the West was discussing where and when to meet Iran next, Iran was speedily working toward getting the bomb.
“The international community must not let Iran get a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday that the six world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany –have proposed holding a new round of talks on its nuclear program in Kazakhstan on February 25.
“I have good news – I heard yesterday that the P5+1 or EU3+3 will be meeting in Kazakhstan on February 25,” he said at the Munich Security Conference. He did not clarify whether Iran had agreed to the meeting.
A European diplomat said Iran had still not given a firm answer regarding the proposed meeting. The two sides have been haggling over a date and venue for new talks for weeks.
Salehi said he would give “positive consideration” to comments by US Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday in which he held out the possibility of direct talks with Iran.
Salehi said there was “no red line for bilateral negotiations” as long as the other side had a real intention to resolve the issue.
If the talks do indeed take place, it will be the first negotiations since last June, when talks were held in Moscow.
Those followed two other rounds of discussions: the first in Istanbul in April, and the second in Baghdad in May. All three rounds ended without any progress.
In addition to dealing with Iran, Netanyahu said at the cabinet meeting that there were three other main issues that the government will have to deal with during its first year.
The first, he said, was to approve “a responsible budget” and reform that will bring about a lower cost of living.
The second issue, he said, was to significantly increase haredi participation in sharing the military and tax burden without “causing a rift in the nation.” And the third issue, he said, was to restart a “realistic and responsible” diplomatic process.
Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud ministers before the cabinet meeting that “the world was not stopping” for Israel’s coalition negotiations, and that just as the financial markets were not waiting for a coalition in Israel, neither was the diplomatic process on hold.
Netanyahu said the Europeans were working on various plans to jump-start the diplomatic process. Israel Radio reported that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with his Jordanian counterpart in Paris over the weekend and said France was working on a new diplomatic initiative, and that the time was now ripe – after the US and Israeli elections – to renew direct negotiations that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Reuters contributed to this report.