PM: Iran must halt uranium enrichment, stockpiling

In a speech to the Civil Services Commission, Netanyahu declares that Tehran must close its underground facility at Qom: "This is Israel's position. It has not changed and will not change."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: GPO / Amos Ben-Gershom)
Two days before six world powers sit down in Baghdad for talks with Iran, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unequivocally declared Monday that Israel would only be satisfied if Iran halted all uranium enrichment and shipped its stockpiles out of the country.
In addition, at a speech at a Civil Service Commission event in Jerusalem, he said Tehran must close its underground nuclear facility at Qom.
“This is the only way it will be possible to ensure that Iran does not get a nuclear bomb,” he said. “This is Israel’s position. It has not changed, and it will not change.”
The prime minister’s comments came even as International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano held rare talks in Tehran on Monday.
Amano, who was on his first trip to the Islamic Republic since taking office in 2009, was also due to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
“I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive,” Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat with long experience in nuclear proliferation and disarmament affairs, said before departure from the Vienna airport. He added that “good progress” had already been made.
Netanyahu, however, did not share Amano’s positive take on the course of events.
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Referring to comments that Iranian Chief of Staff Maj.- Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi made Sunday that “the Iranian nation is standing for its cause, which is the full annihilation of Israel,” Netanyahu said Iran’s goals were clear.
“It wants to annihilate Israel, and is developing nuclear weapons to realize this goal,” he said.
The prime minister ridiculed those who claim that when Iran’s leaders say they want to wipe Israel off the map, they actually “mean something else in Farsi. It will be interesting to hear what they say of the Iranian chief of staff’s remarks yesterday.”
Netanyahu said Iran was threatening not only Israel, but the whole world, and that the world’s powers must show determination, not weakness, in the face of Iran’s malicious designs. The world powers, he said, needed to make clear and unequivocal demands of Iran, and not give concessions.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak articulated similar sentiments, warning at a meeting of his Independence faction on Monday that the Iranians were trying to play Amano off against the world powers – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – whom they will meet Wednesday.
According to Barak, Iran will say to the world powers, “Why are you getting involved, we are discussing these things with the IAEA; and that when there are things that are not comfortable discussing with the IAEA, the Iranians will say, that is what we are talking about” with the world powers.
In Barak’s assessment, the Iranians will try to create the appearance of progress to get some of the sanctions revoked and relieve some of the world’s intense pressure.
“We have made our position clear,” Barak said. “We have shared it with those involved, including during my last visit to Washington [over the weekend].
Israel thinks that the bar has to be set in such a manner – the demand that they stop enrichment – that does not allow for any Iranian [nuclear] development.”
A Western diplomat, meanwhile, said of the upcoming Baghdad meeting that “we are not going to do anything concrete in exchange for nice words.”
By dangling the prospect of enhanced cooperation with UN inspectors, diplomats say, Iran might aim for leverage in the Baghdad talks where the US and its allies will make demands.
Some diplomats and analysts said Amano, given a recent history of mistrustful relations with Iran, would go to Tehran only if he believed a framework agreement to give his inspectors freer hands in their investigation was close. Iran has been stonewalling IAEA requests for better access for four years.
“Amano would not have traveled to Tehran had he not been provided with assurances that progress could be made. If he returns to Vienna empty-handed, the embarrassment will be more damaging for Tehran than the agency,” said Ali Vaez, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.
“However, if the IAEA is satisfied with Tehran’s cooperation, Iranian negotiators will have a new trump card to play at the negotiating table in Baghdad.”
The UN nuclear watchdog is seeking access to sites, nuclear officials, scientists and documents to shed light on work in Iran applicable to developing the capability to make nuclear weapons, especially the Parchin military complex outside Tehran.
Reuters contributed to this report.