World powers holding talks with Iran over its enrichment program cannot leave it with the ability to produce a nuclear weapon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, a day after meeting with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice on the issue.
Speaking at a ceremony marking Victory in Europe day, Netanyahu reiterated his belief that Iran only wanted enrichment capability to produce nuclear weapons.
“Why do they need thousands of centrifuges? Why do they need tons of enriched uranium? Only for the production of nuclear weapons,” he said during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s official surrender to allied forces in 1945.
“The most important thing is for Iran not to have the ability to produce nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said
“[I]t should be and must be the top and most important priority for the current round of talks with Iran — to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons.”
On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with Rice, who said the US was “pursuing a comprehensive solution that assures the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” according to a White House statement.
“The United States will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and … diplomacy is the best way to resolve the international community’s concerns peacefully,” she told Netanyahu.
However, the prime minister asserted Thursday that the Iranian regime is still striving to attain nuclear arms despite its leaders’ attempts to convince the international community otherwise.
“This capability must be deprived from Iran… that should be the objective for all those who really want to remove the threat of mass destruction at the hands of a radical regime.”
On Wednesday, technical experts representing Tehran and six world powers wrapped up a round of negotiations in New York described as “useful.”
Official Jerusalem has railed against the diplomatic efforts and an interim deal signed in November. On Wednesday, Netanyahu told a group from the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces organization that despite the deal, Israel feared Tehran could still pursue a weapon.
“Iran today has thousands of centrifuges, thousands of kilograms of enriched uranium to make a bomb. A bad deal would let them keep those capacities. It’s better to have no deal than a bad deal,” he said, according to an FIDF statement.
On Thursday, former top Israeli nuclear expert Uzi Eilam contended that Iran is a decade away from producing a nuclear weapon. Eilam claimed Netanyahu was making a fuss over Tehran’s program for his own political gain.
“The Iranian nuclear project will be active only in another 10 years,” Eilam told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily in excerpts from an interview published on Thursday. “I am not sure that Iran wants a bomb. It could be that they would be satisfied to be a threshold nuclear state to be a regional power and scare the neighbors.”
“Netanyahu is using the Iranian threat in order to achieve all kinds of political purposes,” he said but declined to speculate on what might be the goals of the prime minister’s strategy.
Eilam, however, said there was cause for “optimism” in the interim deal, under which Iran agreed to reduce by half its stockpiles of 20% enriched uranium fuel.
A third round of talks between Iran and world powers is scheduled to begin on May 13.