Netanyahu: Either change Iran deal or cancel it
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Netanyahu: Either change Iran deal or cancel it

In Argentina, PM rejects reports Israel is satisfied with 2015 nuclear agreement

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, delivers a speech next to Argentina's President Mauricio Macri during a press conference at the Casa Rosada presidential house in Buenos Aires, September 12, 2017. (AFP/JUAN MABROMATA)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, delivers a speech next to Argentina's President Mauricio Macri during a press conference at the Casa Rosada presidential house in Buenos Aires, September 12, 2017. (AFP/JUAN MABROMATA)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Israel wants the Iran nuclear deal to be amended or canceled altogether, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.

Delivering statements to the press alongside Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Netanyahu rejected recent reports claiming that Israel and Saudi Arabia are no longer interested in scrapping the landmark deal, which was reached between Iran and six world powers in 2015 and aimed to end Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.

“In the case of Iran, there have been some news stories about Israel’s purported position on the nuclear deal with Iran. So let me take this opportunity and clarify: Our position is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it — or cancel it. This is Israel’s position,” said Netanyahu.

Reuters reported Tuesday that US officials familiar with discussions about the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), said Israel and Saudi Arabia would rather the pact remains intact.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump later this month in New York. The meeting will be held amid growing speculation that Trump will declare Iran not to be in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. In October, Trump must certify to Congress whether Iran is abiding by the pact.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Trump called the nuclear accord “the worst deal ever” and vowed to tear it up upon taking office. Trump has since moderated his tone, although he said last month Iran is “not in compliance with the agreement” and said he did not believe he would again declare Iran to be abiding by the deal come October.

A US pullout would effectively bring the agreement to an end.

Netanyahu on Tuesday also condemned Iran’s involvement in global terrorism, saying the regime and its proxies continue to operate even in Latin America.

Addressing reporters at the Casa Rosada presidential compound, Netanyahu said there was no doubt that Iran was behind the two major terror attacks that struck Jewish and Israeli sites in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s. He thanked Macri for his commitment to find out the truth about the attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Iran’s terror has not stopped since then. They have a terror machine that encompasses the entire world operating terror cells in many continents, including in Latin America,” Netanyahu said, speaking in English.

“In the case of Iran, it’s not only merely terror but the quest for nuclear weapons that concerns us and should concern the entire international community. We understand the danger of a rogue nation having atomic bombs,” he continued.

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri delivers a speech next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (not in frame) during a press conference at the Casa Rosada presidential house in Buenos Aires, September 12, 2017. (AFP/JUAN MABROMATA)

The prime minister noted the significance of his visit, the first by a sitting Israeli prime minister.

“I’m honored to be first acting prime minister to be in Latin America,” he said. “This a historic moment for us. It’s incredible that in the 70 years of Israel’s existence no Israeli prime minister visited any country in the western hemisphere south of the US. We are beginning here the dawn of a new era.”

Macri, who spoke before Netanyahu, vowed to intensify bilateral ties and praised Israel’s achievements in the fields of technology.

“Your experience clearly is a major benchmark for us that reflects the high potential from learning from the huge progress you have made in recent years,” Macri said, speaking in Spanish.

He also spoke of joint efforts to combat terrorism.

“Argentina has suffered first hand, and twice the tragic effects of extremist violence. And we condemn terrorism in all of its forms and intend to work alongside Israel and our international partners to fight and prevent this scourge.”

At the event, Israel’s ambassador in Buenos Aires Ilan Sztulman signed a series of bilateral agreements with Argentinian officials. Netanyahu and Macri signed a document regarding Holocaust research.

Macri gave Netanyahu a box containing five terabytes of more than 100,000 digital images with historical photos relating to the period before, during, and after the Holocaust.

Earlier on Tuesday, Netanyahu laid a wreath at the San Martin Palace to honor Argentina’s national hero, General José de San Martín.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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