Iran FM says Israel seeking to 'deceive' world to avert nuclear deal

Zarif to CNN: "Audacious" for Israel to refuse to sign NPT; says Netanyahu "lying," "continuing fear" about Iran's intentions.

Iranian FM Javad Zarif 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian FM Javad Zarif 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and chief negotiator on his country’s nuclear program, accused Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of trying to deceive the international community in order to avert a deal that would end the nuclear standoff.
Zarif told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that aired on Sunday that it was “audacious” of Israel – a country with “a clandestine nuclear weapons program” and only one of three states that had refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – to accuse Iran of weaponizing its program.
“We won’t have a bomb, because we don’t see it in our interest,” Zarif said. “He’s [Netanyahu’s] been lying. He continues to lie. He’s in fact investing in continuing fear.”
Zarif outlined what Iran’s Foreign Ministry may consider the parameters of a deal.
“Why is it that he’s worried about a deal where the international community can monitor Iran’s nuclear program and make sure it is never weaponized?” he asked.
“The Zionist regime and its supporters had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to portray the intended image from the Islamic Republic of Iran, but all these efforts unraveled in this trip,” Zarif said in an interview on Iranian TV on Saturday, the Iranian Tasnim News Agency reported.
He said that Netanyahu tried to distract attention by using propaganda about Iran instead of focusing on his country’s persecution of the Palestinians.
Netanyahu “failed this year, and everybody said that Netanyahu was in a muddle about his own problems,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marqiyeh Afkham said Moscow was committed to delivering the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to her country.
“In line with the friendly ties between Iran and Russia, negotiations between officials and experts in charge are continuing, so that the international obligations of the Russian side will be fulfilled and a result will be reached on the S-300 system,” she said on Saturday, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
Israel sees the acquisition of the Russian anti-aircraft S-300 rockets by Iran, Syria or Hezbollah as a redline.
World powers negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear program must come up with new proposals before talks in Geneva on October 15-16, the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister said.
The United States wants Iran to respond to proposals by world powers in February as a starting point for talks. If the parties cannot agree on how to start the negotiations, it casts doubt on whether a resolution can be agreed on within the six months in which Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he wants a deal.
Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – plus Germany, the so called P5+1, said in February they want Iran to stop enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out some stockpiles and shutter a facility where such enrichment is done.
In return, they offered relaxation of international sanctions on petrochemicals and trade in gold and other precious metals.
US officials said last week that Secretary of State John Kerry had secured an agreement from his Chinese counterpart calling for Iran to respond positively to existing nuclear proposals by the six powers.
“The previous P5+1 plan given to Iran belongs to history and they must enter talks with a new point of view,” Zarif said in a TV interview on Saturday.
“The players must put away this illusion that they can impose anything on the Iranian people.”
“There is a new tone [in Iran]; we want it to be sincere, but we need to see deeds,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.
He said there was limited time to resolve the dispute while maintaining the Western goal of ensuring Iran is not able to make nuclear arms. That was because the heavy water reactor in Arak, in western Iran, would be able to produce plutonium.
“If it were completed, we wouldn’t be able to destroy it, because if you bomb plutonium it will leak. This means it’s a race against time,” he said.
Asked how much time he thought there was, Fabius said, “People say roughly a year... We hope there will be a negotiation, but we must act quickly.”
Over the past several days, the regime in Tehran has been responding with mixed messages to a series of gestures Rouhani and Zarif made during the recent United Nations General Assembly, widely seen in the West as progress toward a negotiations process.
For the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the leaders of the United States and Iran spoke directly, and their chief diplomats – Zarif and Secretary of State John Kerry – met one on one.
But Netanyahu’s speech one week later was an attempt to unmask the government of Rouhani, who won election based on the promise of relief from the devastating sanctions regime led by the US.
Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama met at the White House before the former leader’s UN address last Tuesday, and made joint comments that Zarif called “disappointing” language “insulting to the Iranian people.”
“What we have done in the past 10 years has not benefited the P5+1,” Zarif said, adding, “it has not benefited Iran.”
He characterized the sanctions as “very serious,” and said he considered their breadth a result of a decades old standoff rooted in mistrust between Iran and the US.
He also said, on the other hand, that the same mistrust had led to the installation of more than 18,000 centrifuges across Iran, used to enrich uranium.
Zarif said that the US advised Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution to diversify its energy supply, and that its nuclear program achieved that aim for “environmental and sustainable development” purposes.
“The IAEA has not been able to find a single evidence...that Iran has diverted its activities into non-peaceful operations,” Zarif said.
Both Rouhani and Obama face opposition at home from conservatives who fear they may be too willing to grant concessions before the other side takes tangible steps.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on the nuclear issue, said on Saturday he supported Rouhani’s diplomatic opening with the United States.
But he said some aspects of it were “not proper.” Khamenei did not elaborate on his objections, but it was a possible reference to the phone conversation between Rouhani and Obama.
The supreme leader also said he did not trust the United States as a negotiating partner, a sentiment echoed by Zarif.
Meanwhile, Iran announced that it plans to launch a satellite called Zafar-2, meaning “Victory,” into space next year.
Reuters contributed to this report.