U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, when the Middle Eastern leader offered more specifics than his U.S. counterpart did for how he wants Iran to address international fears that it is pursuing a nuclear weapon.
“It is of major concern to all of us that Iran not be able to develop a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told reporters before starting the closed-door meeting with Netanyahu, according to a State Department transcript. “We will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear, undeniably clear, failsafe to the world, that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program.”
The United States and five other governments last week joined Iran for talks aimed at ultimately defusing atomic tensions with Tehran, which insists its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Plans are in place for a Nov. 7-8 follow-up meeting between Iranian diplomats and counterparts from the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany.
Netanyahu, whose government is not participating in the talks, said in the public remarks that he agreed with Kerry that “Iran must not have a nuclear-weapons capability.” He then went a step further, renewing his previous demand that Iran dismantle all uranium-enrichment and heavy-water equipment capable of generating nuclear-bomb fuel.
“I think we’re very close to getting that,” Netanyahu said. “The best way to get it peacefully is to maintain the pressure on Iran.”
The Israeli leader said “it would be a tragic mistake” to ease economic sanctions against Iran “right before that goal is realized.”
A high-level Obama insider said the White House is considering a full or partial release of Iranian financial assets frozen in other countries, as well as potential relief from restrictions on sales of civilian-aircraft components to Iran, Foreign Policy reported on Tuesday.
In a separate interview with the magazine, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said “Iran is now coming to the negotiating table solely because of the pressure.”
“They are really on the verge of the collapse and that’s the reason they’re coming to the negotiating table with some willingness to negotiate,” Steinitz said in the remarks published on Tuesday.
“The pressure on the regime is enormous. You can get a very serious agreement for this. Don’t give it up so easily,” he maintained. “And don’t give them extra oxygen while you’re negotiating with them. On the contrary, increase the pressure.”