The United States and Israel clashed on Wednesday over Iran as Benjamin Netanyahu called for Tehran’s entire nuclear programme to be dismantled and warned the world against accepting a “partial deal”.
The Israeli prime minister made clear his dismay at Washington’s softer approach towards Iran. He said the ongoing negotiations should insist that Tehran end all enrichment of uranium, destroy all fissile material and close water plants and underground bunkers that he said could only be used to build a nuclear bomb.
The six world powers involved in talks with Iran have not made firm commitments on what it would allow Tehran to keep, but are not insisting on it eradicating its nuclear industry.
“I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal,” said Mr Netanyahu.
John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, said only that the United States would continue to insist Iran prove to the world that its nuclear programme is peaceful, as Tehran claims.
“We will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear, undeniably clear, fail-safe to the world, that whatever programme is pursued is indeed a peaceful programme,” Mr Kerry said.
“No deal is better than a bad deal,” he said. “But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone, and we are looking for an opportunity to be able to do that.”
The two men spoke in Rome as they began talks ostensibly about Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations but which appeared likely to be overshadowed by Iran.
It was the second time this week that Mr Kerry has been forced to explain US policy in the Middle East to a close ally.
On Monday he held extensive meetings with the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, which is also troubled by Washington’s thaw with Iran and its unwillingness to attack the Syrian regime.
The Saudis and the Israelis both regard the prospect of a nuclear Iran as a direct threat, despite their own differences.
They have both supported eight years UN Security Council resolutions that have demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment. Heavy sanctions have been imposed by the UN, US and European Union which have damaged the Iranian economy.
The election of the relatively moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani in the summer has however brought hope that a deal could be reached.
The six world powers in the talks no longer expect Iran to halt all its enrichment, as the Islamic state has sharply expanded this work and it is seen as a source of national pride.
Iran has hinted that it would accept strict, verifiable limits on the production of low-enriched uranium, which is used for both medical and military purposes.
Talks between the six states and Iran are due to resume in Geneva next month.
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