Israel not seeking war with Iran, Netanyahu tells US media
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Israel not seeking war with Iran, Netanyahu tells US media

After claiming Tehran 'brazenly lied' about its nuclear weapons program, PM says he trusts Trump to 'do the right thing' on nuke deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an interview with CNN's "New Day" on May 1, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an interview with CNN's "New Day" on May 1, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A day after revealing new information about Iran’s nuclear program and accusing Tehran of lying, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that he was not seeking a war with the Islamic Republic, adding that he trusts US President Donald Trump to “do the right thing.”

“Nobody is seeking that kind of development,” he told CNN’s “New Day” when asked about the possibility, staving off questions about Israel’s alleged nuclear program, which has never been confirmed by Jerusalem.

“They don’t want the world to know what I showed the world yesterday,” he added, referring to Iran’s leadership.

On Monday Netanyahu accused Iran of lying about its nuclear program during a speech broadcast on TV.

He revealed information which he said showed that the Islamic Republic had for years worked on developing nuclear weapons, and put in place plans to continue doing so after signing the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers.

The premier, who has repeatedly called for the accord with Iran to either be altered or scrapped, said Israel had obtained 100,000 secret Iranian files in February in one of the “greatest achievements” of Israeli intelligence.

Speaking in English at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu gave a presentation including videos and slides he said exposed Iran’s nuclear dossier.

Israel obtained the incriminating information in February and notified Trump of it in early March, when the two met, Netanyahu told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday.

He said the deal needed to be “fully fixed” or “fully nixed.”

“I trust his judgment,” Netanyahu said on the show, known to be regularly watched by Trump himself. “He’ll do the right thing for America and for Israel.”

“This regime had a secret nuclear weapons program and they’re trying under a very bad deal to get a nuclear arsenal. They shouldn’t get it. It really needs a new deal,” he added.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leads a faction meeting of his Yisrael Beytenu party in the Knesset, March 12, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meanwhile warned that Israel would “respond in kind” to Iran’s attempts to “hurt” Israel.

Speaking at a ceremony for the new chief liaison to the Palestinians, Liberman said “to paraphrased Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis who said that Israel has three problems: Iran Iran Iran, today we have four: Iran Iran Iran and hypocrisy.”

“Countries that years ago supported agreements like Molotov-Ribbentrop have dug their heads in the sand and ignored the reality of Iran, which is trying to destabilize the entire region,” he said. “Iran, which goes after freedom of expression, minorities and all democratic values. The same Iran that tries to hide its weapons program that everyone is trying to ignore.”

“Israel cannot ignore Iran’s constant threats that the Jewish state will be wiped off the map and we will do everything we need to do,” he added. “The threats from Iran come week after week. They are not looking for excuses but are trying to hurt us and we will respond in kind.”

Iran branded Netanyahu an “infamous liar” on Tuesday over his allegations, with foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi calling the accusations that Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions “worn-out, useless and shameful.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech on Iran’s nuclear program at the defence ministry in Tel Aviv on April 30, 2018. Netanyahu said that he had proof of a “secret” Iranian nuclear weapons program as the White House considers whether to pull out of a landmark atomic accord that Israel opposes. (AFP PHOTO / Jack GUEZ)

Netanyahu’s comments came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits,” Qasemi said in a statement, adding that it was “ridiculous propaganda.”

“Netanyahu and the notorious child-killing Zionist regime must have reached the basic understanding that the people of the world have enough awareness and cognizance,” he added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Netanyahu was “crying wolf.”

Trump said following Netanyahu’s press conference that “what’s happening today and what’s happened over the last little while and what we’ve learned has really shown that I’ve been 100 percent right.”

Zarif, on Twitter, responded: “Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the [International Atomic Energy Agency] to ‘nix’ the deal. How convenient.” He added that the Israeli reveal was coordinated with the US ahead of the May 12 deadline for Trump to recertify the deal.

Trump has derided the 2015 agreement as “insane,” partly because its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities begin expiring in 2025.

Most world powers, however, say the nuclear deal is working as intended for now and is the best way to keep Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was for civilian purposes. Netanyahu said the evidence from Iran’s own archive proved it had “brazenly” lied and that the 2015 nuclear deal was built upon “Iranian deception.”

‘One of the greatest intelligence operations’

Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said the theft of the document trove was “one of the greatest intelligence operations in the history of the State of Israel.”

In an interview with the Ynet news site Tuesday, Katz said: “The Iranian leadership knew that Israel had its hands on its most classified documents.”

He said the operation was unprecedented in scope.

“When the idea of ​​the operation was first presented, I did not believe they could pull it off,” said Katz. “They did something unprecedented here.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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