Iran on Saturday shrugged off a “scaremongering” bid by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prevent an emerging nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers by lobbying opposition in a speech to the US Congress.

“I believe this effort is fruitless and it should not be an impediment to an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a joint press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.

“It is unfortunate that there is a group which sees its interests in tension and crisis.”

Netanyahu’s bid was “an attempt to utilize a fabricated crisis to cover up realities in the region, including occupation, the suppression of Palestinians and the violation of their rights,” he said.

“It is an on old policy to intimidate and spread lies in order to prevent peace in the region,” said Zarif.

“Through scaremongering, falsification, propaganda and creating a false atmosphere even inside other countries, (Israel) is attempting to prevent peace,” Zarif told reporters.

In his sharpest criticism yet, Netanyahu said earlier this week that world powers “have given up” on stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons in ongoing negotiations. Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as threatening its very existence.

Netanyahu will travel next week to Washington to denounce a possible bad agreement with Iran, which he considers an existential threat to Israel.

The Israeli leader said Wednesday that his speech before Congress was part of his “duty” to protect the Jewish state’s security.

“Under the agreement that is being prepared, we have reason to worry if the world powers have apparently found common ground with Iran,” he said.

The so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany are trying to strike an accord that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The next round of talks is to start next week in Switzerland.

In return, the West would ease punishing sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program, which Iran insists is purely civilian.

A March 31 deadline for a political framework for the deal is looming with negotiators saying they will aim to pin down the final technical details by June 30.