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Kerry calls Netanyahu over Iran talks, condemns Khamenei’s ‘destroy Israel’ comments

Secretary of state updates PM leader on ongoing nuclear negotiations after PM sends out statement imploring world powers not to sign a bad deal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry arrive at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and US Secretary of State John Kerry arrive at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013. (photo credit: Emil Salman/Flash90/Pool)

US Secretary of State John Kerry said a call for Israel’s destruction by Iran’s supreme leader was “unacceptable and shocking,” in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday.

Kerry called Netanyahu following the end of a negotiation session with Iran in Muscat, Oman, to update him on the talks’ progress, officials said.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the phone call had taken place, but would not comment on what was said.

Netanyahu said Monday he had instructed his office to send letters to the six world powers negotiating with Iran urging them not to “rush into a deal,” after saying he had received reports an agreement was impending.

State Department officials said Kerry had called Netanyahu early Tuesday, but refused to discuss why the Israeli prime minister believed a deal was imminent.

The officials said Kerry also condemned comments posted this weekend on the Twitter account of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that called for Israel’s destruction

His feed also tweeted various posts about the negotiations — including one detailing Iran’s “red lines” of things it could not accept — while the Oman talks were ongoing.

Earlier in the day State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US “strongly condemned” Khamenei’s statements, which included a tweet with a nine-point plan for Israel’s destruction.

“The remarks are offensive and reprehensible, and the entire international community should condemn such rhetoric. This rhetoric is, unfortunately, not new, but it’s not conducive to regional security either,” she said.

Talks between Iran and six world powers were set to continue Tuesday after two days of discussions between Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif ended with neither man revealing what remains unsolved in the long-running bid for a comprehensive accord.

Prior to the meetings between Kerry and Zarif, Khamenei called over the weekend for the destruction of Israel, stating that the “barbaric” Jewish state “has no cure but to be annihilated.”

Netanyahu on Monday warned nations negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program that Tehran’s recent calls to eliminate Israel show it is “unreformed,” and urged them not to sign a bad deal.

The prime minister said he ordered his office to send letters to foreign ministries in the US, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, urging the ministers to see statements from Khamenei as proof that the country had not reformed and still sought to destroy Israel.

On Tuesday the P5+1 powers will take part in the Muscat talks chaired by former EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, who will see out the nuclear negotiations until the agreed-upon November 24 deadline.

While recent reports have suggested the sides would consider extending the deadline, Philip Gordon, the Middle East counselor on the National Security Council, told JTA on Monday that missing the deadline “dramatically reduces the chances for a deal.”

The six world powers want Iran to reduce the scope of its atomic activities. In exchange, the West is offering to ease punishing economic sanctions imposed since 2012.

Iran denies it is seeking a bomb and says its nuclear program aims to produce atomic energy to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, requiring a massive increase in its ability to enrich uranium in coming years.

State Department officials said Kerry plans to brief Obama and Rice about the discussions in Oman. “A lot will be determined there, in terms of next steps for us,” a State Department official told reporters traveling with Kerry.

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