Obama: Israel knows Iran’s nuclear program halted

President says that despite Netanyahu’s criticism, Jerusalem aware that Tehran has frozen progress for duration of talks

US President Barack Obama speaks to CNN's Cindy Crowley on Sunday, December 21, 2014 (screen capture: CNN)
US President Barack Obama speaks to CNN's Cindy Crowley on Sunday, December 21, 2014 (screen capture: CNN)

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism of Washington’s handling of negotiations with Iran, Israeli intelligence acknowledges that Tehran has made no advancements during the past year and a half of talks, US President Barack Obama said Sunday.

Netanyahu has frequently voiced his criticism of what he sees as overly accommodating agreements being negotiated between world powers and Iran, both before last year’s interim accords were announced and afterwards. The Israeli prime minister has repeatedly taken to the world stage to warn about the threat posed by a potentially nuclear armed Iran.

Speaking in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley, the president defended his diplomacy-focused foreign policy, saying that “where we can solve problems diplomatically, we should do so.” Obama said the American-led effort to reach a negotiated solution to defusing Iran’s nuclear program was an example of a successful diplomatic campaign.

“You look at an example like Iran, over the last year and a half, since we began negotiations with them, that’s probably the first year and a half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade,” Obama told the news outlet.

The American leader said Iran’s halted progress was “not just verified by the United Nations and the… IAEA and ourselves,” but that “even critics of our policy like the Netanyahu government in Israel, their intelligence folks have acknowledged that, in fact, Iran has not made progress.”

Obama’s remarks were supported by a confidential IAEA report leaked last week which said Iran is honoring the interim nuclear agreement reached last year with the P5+1 world powers.

The document, obtained by Reuters on Friday, showed that Tehran was not enriching uranium above a five-percent concentration, and that it has not made “any further advances” at two enrichment facilities and a heavy water reactor which was under construction.

Iran and world powers failed to reach a deal by the November deadline and agreed to extend nuclear talks until July 1, 2015. A final agreement aims to ensure Tehran won’t be able to develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian activities, and would lift international sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Iran denies that it is seeking a nuclear weapon and insists its nuclear activities are for solely peaceful purposes. But UN inspectors, European, American and Israeli leaders have said Iran has concealed large parts of its nuclear program, and believe it is intended to develop a nuclear bomb.

AFP contributed to this report.

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