Netanyahu urges France not to weaken on Iran talks

Ahead of French President Hollande's visit to Israel next week, Netanyahu tells Le Figaro he hopes France does not lower its guard on Tehran's nuclear program; adds settlement construction is not what's preventing peace.

PM Netanyahu and French President Hollande 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
PM Netanyahu and French President Hollande 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pressed France on Friday not to weaken in its stance toward Iran in upcoming talks on the Islamic state's nuclear program, days before President Francois Hollande is due to visit Israel.
Iran has accused France of blocking agreement last week at talks between Tehran and six world powers in Geneva. Iran is seeking relief from international sanctions, while the six demand curbs in its nuclear activities, including enrichment of uranium.
Hollande travels to Israel on Tuesday for the first time since his election 18 months ago, a visit aides say will focus on the next round of talks in Geneva starting on Wednesday.
"We hope that France will not weaken," Netanyahu told Le Figaro daily in an interview to be published on Saturday. "We salute [Hollande's] consistent and determined position on the Iranian issue."
Netanyahu reiterated his government's opposition to Iran pursuing any research that could lead to the development of a nuclear weapon, saying it should not possess heavy water reactors or centrifuges used to enrich radioactive material. Tehran says it wants nuclear energy for electricity, not bombs.
"My belief is that we must not lower our guard against a regime that helps [Syrian President Bashar] Assad kill tens of thousands of men, women and innocent children in Syria, spreading terrorism worldwide, and arming Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad with thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli towns, and finally, [a regime that] calls for the destruction of Israel," he said.
Hollande has opposed lifting any economic sanctions on Iran until it provides further guarantees.
Following failure to secure a "first step" deal that would halt Tehran's nuclear program for six months in return for the easing of some sanctions, Iran and the P5+1 countries are scheduled to meet again in Geneva later this month.
A US official said on Friday that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif were to meet on November 20 and a wider group - including Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - would meet Iranian officials there on the following two days.
While the US is hopeful a deal could be reached, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned that "there are still tough issues to negotiate."
The French president is also due to tell Netanyahu that he opposes the further building of Israeli settler homes in the West Bank, Hollande's aides said.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has condemned the construction of new homes on disputed land that Palestinians want as part of a future state, and pressed Israel and the Palestinian Authority to strike a lasting peace accord.
"It is not the construction of homes that is preventing peace," Netanyahu told Le Figaro. "It is a problem that must be solved, but it is not the cause of the conflict." staff contributed to this report.