In Rome, Netanyahu says eased Iran sanctions would be ‘tragic’
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In Rome, Netanyahu says eased Iran sanctions would be ‘tragic’

Meeting with Italian PM focuses on Islamic Republic’s nuclear program; on Wednesday, Israeli leader due to talk with Kerry to discuss peace process

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta, following a meeting in Rome, on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta, following a meeting in Rome, on Tuesday, October 22, 2013. (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged continued pressure on Iran in a meeting with his Italian counterpart Enrico Letta in Rome Tuesday night. The sit-down took place in the Palazzo Chigi, the Italian PM’s official residence.

“Iran says it wants a deal in which it will have civilian nuclear energy, but that is not the real issue,” Netanyahu said. “Many nations in Europe, North America, and Asia have nuclear energy without centrifuges or plutonium. The only reason Iran is demanding centrifuges and plutonium is to enable it to produce enough materials for a nuclear bomb. This is why the UN Security Council reached many resolutions, including one in 2010 that called for Iran to destroy the centrifuges and cease the production of plutonium.”

“If Iran retains these capabilities, it will be able to progress quickly toward the production of a bomb,” the prime minister continued. “It can move quickly from a low level of 3.5% enrichment straight to 90% without the intermediate level of 20%. We cannot let them do this. Our efforts toward peace can be severely harmed if Iran succeeds in it goals.”

“It will be tragic if it succeeds in avoiding the sanctions.”

Last Wednesday, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement announcing the prime minister would be meeting with Pope Francis I at the Vatican this Wednesday on the same trip, and separately with Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss nuclear talks with Iran and the ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians.

However, it later emerged the PMO’s announcement was premature; there were no confirmed plans for a meeting with the pontiff, which typically have to be scheduled further in advance.

The meeting with Kerry is to take place Wednesday.

Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, arrived in Rome Tuesday, having left Israel after voting in the Jerusalem municipal elections in the morning, and were dining together in the Italian capital later.

Speaking in Paris on Monday after a meeting with the Arab League, Kerry said talks between Israelis and Palestinians were intensifying and that all core issues were on the table.

Kerry was briefing the 22-member organization on the progress of peace talks, which resumed in July.

“The two parties have been engaged now in 13 meetings — serious meetings. They had three meetings in the last four days,” Kerry told reporters. “All the core issues are on the table. And they have been meeting with increased intensity.”

He also used the opportunity of a joint press conference with the Qatari foreign minister to announce that Qatar was forgiving $150 million in Palestinian Authority debt.

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