PM on sanctions: If not now, when?

Teheran plans two more uranium enrichment facilities.

netanyahu cabinet good 311 (photo credit: AP)
netanyahu cabinet good 311
(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continued on Monday to publicly urge the world to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, even as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that if Iran can’t have nuclear weapons, Israel should not be able to have them either.
Erdogan, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, said that Iran should be able to develop its nuclear program for civilian, but not military, purposes. He said that if the nuclear program evolves into a military nuclear program, then it cannot be allowed “because we do not want neighbors with nuclear weapons.”
But, he said, if Iran cannot have nuclear weapons, Israel should also not be allowed to have them.
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Erdogan, when asked whether he believed the Iranians wanted nuclear weapons, said that Iran denied that was its intention. And as to whether he believed them, the Turkish prime minister said he had to believe what they were saying. However, he said, he didn’t know what would happen tomorrow.
Erdogan said that an Israeli military attack on Iran would be “a catastrophe” in the region, with “unpredictable consequences.”
“It would be something unthinkable which I don’t even want to imagine,” he said.
Erdogan, whose country is currently one of the 10 non-permanent rotating members on the 15-member UN Security Council that will have to deal with the sanctions issue against Iran, was non-committal on whether Turkey would back sanctions.
“We have important relations with Teheran,” Erdogan said. “Iran is our second supplier of natural gas. We have a strategic relationship. We must resolve the conflict through diplomatic channels.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, whom Erdogan said he has not spoken to, told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors at a meeting in Jerusalem that the international community was reaching a fateful junction regarding Iran.
“We’re at the point where the international community has to decide whether it is serious about stopping Iran,” he said.
“If it is serious about stopping Iran, then what it needs to do is not water down sanctions, moderate sanctions, sanctions that will only enable people to put a ‘V’ in the sanctions box, but rather effective, biting sanctions that curtail the import and export of oil into and out of Iran. This is what is required now. It may not do the job,” Netanyahu continued, “but nothing else will. And at least we will have known that it’s been tried. And if this cannot pass in the Security Council, then it should be done outside the Security Council, but immediately.”
Using a line that he has repeated a number of times in the last two weeks, Netanyahu quoted Hillel the Elder who said, according to the prime minister, some “pretty smart things.”
“If not now, when is the international community going to impose biting sanctions on Iran?” Netanyahu asked. “A year from now? Two years from now? Three years from now when it’s all pointless? If not now, when? And the answer is right now! That is what is required: Crippling sanctions that affect Iran’s import and export of oil now.”
The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Monday his country hopes to begin construction within a year on two uranium enrichment facilities, which it plans to build deep inside mountains to protect from possible attack.
Salehi, who is also Iran’s vice president, said Teheran intends to use its more advanced centrifuges at the new sites, a decision that could add to growing concerns in the West over Teheran’s program because the technology would allow Iran to accelerate the pace of its program.
In November, Iran approved plans to build 10 industrial-scale uranium enrichment facilities, a dramatic expansion of the program in defiance of UN demands to halt enrichment.
“Hopefully, we may begin construction of two new enrichment sites in the next Iranian year as ordered by the president,” the semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Salehi as saying Monday. The Iranian calendar year begins March 21.
“As of now, our enrichment sites... will be built inside mountains,” Salehi added, according to ISNA.
AP contributed to this report.