Netanyahu warns France, UK against lifting Iran sanctions

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tells New York Times his job is to defend the Jewish state of Israel.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned French and British leaders over the weekend not to lift sanctions against Iran precisely when they appear to be working.
In advance of the six party diplomatic talks scheduled to be held in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday, Netanyahu spoke by telephone with French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
France and Great Britain will participate in the P5+1 talks, along with the US, China, Russia and Germany and Iran.
Netanyahu made the calls as part of his diplomatic and media blitz to sway the international community not to be fooled by conciliatory tones out of Iran. He supports diplomatic initiatives to avert a nuclear Iran, but fears the international community will accept a compromise on this issue that will allow Tehran to avoid dismantling its nuclear weapons facilities and removing enriched uranium from the country.
In an interview with The New York Times published on Friday, Netanyahu pointed to photographs in his office of two men who had also been on solitary international missions: British prime minister Winston Churchill – who warned of the dangers of Nazi Germany in the 1930s – and the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl.
“They were alone a lot more than I am,” Netanyahu said.
Of the role he has taken on in warning the world against a nuclear Iran, he told the Times, “We’re here for a purpose – I’m here for a purpose.
Which is to defend the future of the Jewish people, which means to defend the Jewish state. Defending it from a nuclear Iran.
“I’m not going to let that happen,” he said. “It’s not going to happen.”
Official Israeli diplomatic sources said on Saturday night that the prime minister told Hollande and Cameron sanctions were close to achieving the desired result, of forcing Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions should continue and be amplified until this happens, Netanyahu said.
The international community should not be satisfied until Iran has stopped enriching uranium, has dismantled the machinery to do so and has removed all enriched uranium from the country, he said.
According to the diplomatic sources, Netanyahu told the French and British leaders not to forget that Tehran had ignored the UN Security Council on the nuclear issue, was behind terrorist attacks on five continents and had participated in the massacres taking place in Syria.
Hollande promised Netanyahu that his country would take a tough stance with regard to Iran, and would wait to see if Tehran’s words were reflected by actions, according to AFP. The French president is expected to visit Israel next month.
US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington on Friday that when it came to Iran’s nuclear program, “words aren’t enough; we need to see action.”
She said the US agrees with Israel that “sanctions are the reason the Iranians may be using more conciliatory tones today. But what we’re all focused on is seeing what they come with substantively.”
Stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is the highest national priority for both Israel and the US, as well as for the region as a whole, Harf said.
“That’s why the president’s been clear that we will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, that all options remain on the table,” she said.
But it was important to try to resolve the issue through diplomacy, she said, “in large part because the alternative has a lot of incredibly grave consequences that would go along with it.”
Netanyahu is likely to address the issue when he speaks to the Knesset plenum on Monday.
Since 2006, the Islamic Republic has crossed several thresholds deemed unacceptable by the West and Israel. Iran built a second uranium enrichment plant at Fordow, deep underground near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, started producing uranium to a level closer to that suitable for bombs, and installed advanced centrifuges able to enrich much faster.
Illustrating the nuclear program’s growth and increasing complexity, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports have more than doubled in length, to 14 pages this year from just five in 2006.
Despite a more moderate tone from Iran under President Hassan Rouhani, Vienna-based diplomats say they see no clear indication that Iran is putting the brakes on its nuclear drive.
Between May and August this year, it installed an additional 1,861 old-generation centrifuges at its main enrichment site near the town of Natanz, bringing the total to 15,416, although only about 60 percent of them seemed to be in operation.
At the same time, Iran completed putting in place 1,008 advanced so-called IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz and was planning to test them, the IAEA said in a report issued in late August.
At Fordow, it continued to produce medium-enriched uranium – refined to 20 percent concentration of the fissile isotope – with 700 IR-1 centrifuges out of a total of 2,710 installed.
In addition, it has 328 IR-1 machines producing the same medium-enriched material in a research and development facility in the Natanz complex, as well as nearly 400 centrifuges of various models it is testing, including more advanced ones.
Iran’s total number of centrifuges – machines that spin at supersonic speed to separate the fissile U-235 isotope – comes to over 19,800. The fact that many of them remain idle suggests that it could sharply ramp up production at short notice.
“Iran could quickly begin feeding natural uranium into these cascades [linked networks of centrifuges] and more than double its enrichment capacity,” said David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security think tank.
Iran says it makes the centrifuges itself, but nuclear experts believe it likely needs to procure components and materials for the equipment abroad, evading sanctions aimed at stopping the trade.
Reuters contributed to this report.