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Benjamin Netanyahu: 'Iran will back down' if red lines are drawn (+video)

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, put the world on notice during his UN speech about his 'duty' to act 'before it's too late' to protect his country.

By Staff writer / September 27, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on a graphic of a bomb as he addresses the UN General Assembly in New York, Sept. 27.

Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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United Nations, N.Y.

Having failed to get from President Obama a public declaration of “red lines” for Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the United Nations stage to set his own such lines Thursday – declaring that Iran’s uranium enrichment program must be stopped before it amasses enough material to build a nuclear bomb.

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Flashing a diagram showing the progress Iran has made, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was getting 'late, very late' to stop Iran.

“Faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down,” Mr. Netanyahu said, concluding a technical yet at times almost folksy explanation of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear progress. He said that “at most by next summer” an unrestrained Iran will have the stockpile of medium-enriched uranium it would need to quickly build a nuclear weapon.

That timetable leaves little opportunity for sanctions and stalled international talks to resolve the crisis diplomatically. But it also suggests that Israel is not on the verge of launching airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities – perhaps even before US elections in November – as some Middle East experts have speculated.

Netanyahu’s call for red lines was not a surprise. But he placed Iran’s nuclear threat in a broader context of what he said is the global struggle between forces of progress and darkness.

“Today, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval,” he said, with the forces of “intolerant and extremist Islam” arrayed against the tolerant and freedom-loving world.

The protagonists of this new “medievalism,” Netanyahu said, were led by a country, Iran, and an organization, Al Qaeda. A world that can easily fathom the unacceptability of nuclear weapons in Al Qaeda’s hands, he said, should consider Iran an equal threat.

“It makes little difference if these arms are in the hands of the most dangerous terrorist regime or the most dangerous terrorist organization,” he said.

Netanyahu mixed his dark and alarmist tone with some familiar touches of the tried politician he is, at one point pulling out a prop – a simple diagram with a big round bomb topped by a lighted fuse to demonstrate Iran’s progress in stockpiling enriched uranium. He even pulled out a felt pen to draw a sharp red line across the bomb and illustrate his point.

Although he put the world on notice about his “duty” to act “before it’s too late” to protect his country, Netanyahu also highlighted Israel’s cooperation with the United States in confronting Iran and praised Mr. Obama for his categorical refusal of a nuclear Iran from the UN stage this week.

Netanyahu said he appreciated Obama’s declaration that “the threat of a nuclear Iran cannot be contained” and that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable.

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