At White House and UN, Israel's Netanyahu seeks to undo Iranian charm (+video)
Iran is not to be trusted and sanctions should be strengthened if it strengthens its nuclear program during negotiations, Netanyahu tells Obama and Biden over lunch at the White House.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes his deep skepticism over the new Iranian leader’s Western charm offensive to the United Nations Tuesday, fresh from delivering stern warnings on Iran over lunch at the White House Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Netanyahu goes to New York with two principal concerns: first, mounting suggestions that the UN Security Council – whose permanent members are to meet with Iran in mid-October to try to negotiate a deal on Iran’s nuclear program – could accept some level of uranium enrichment in Iran.
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was the toast of New York last week, as he spoke of a new Iranian openness and desire for engagement with the world at the UN General Assembly, met with think tanks and media executives, and culminated it all with a telephone conversation with President Obama.
Mr. Netanyahu is expected to take to the UN the same message he presented to Mr. Obama and to Vice President Joe Biden at the three leaders’ lunch: that Iran is not to be trusted, and that while Mr. Rouhani was smiling and tacking toward rhetorical moderation in New York last week, the centrifuges that create enriched uranium were still spinning away back in Iran.
Exhibiting none of the tenseness that marked some of the two leaders’ past meetings, Netanyahu spoke of his deep appreciation for what he called Obama’s commitment to “preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” Stating flatly that “Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” the Israeli leader went on to praise Obama for insisting that Iran’s conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions.
“It is Israel’s firm belief that if Iran continues to advance its nuclear program during [the coming round of] negotiations, the [existing economic] sanctions should be strengthened," Netanyahu said at the White House, seated next to Obama.
For his part, Obama – who is facing pressure from some in Congress to further tighten the economic screws on Iran even as the US joins in negotiations – reassured the Israeli leader that he would demand “the highest level of verification” of compliance with any plan curtailing Iran’s nuclear program before agreeing to any reduction of existing sanctions.