JERUSALEM (REUTERS) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu differed sharply with US President Barack Obama on Sunday in assessing Iran's demand to lift all sanctions against it in tandem with the signing of any final nuclear deal.
On Saturday, while at the Americas summit in Panama, Mr Obama expressed optimism for major world powers and Iran potentially moving beyond the April 2 framework deal and sign an agreement to curb Teheran's nuclear programme. That is despite the comments made by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday.
Khamenei demanded that all sanctions on Iran be lifted at the same time as any final agreement with world powers on curbing Teheran's nuclear programme is concluded.
Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's most powerful figure and who has the last say on all state matters, was making his first comments on the interim deal reached between Iran and the powers last week in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
He repeated his faith in President Hassan Rouhani's negotiating team. But in remarks apparently meant to keep his hard-line loyalists on side, he warned about the "devilish" intentions of the United States.
On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu - a fierce critic of the framework agreement - called foreign television crews to his office in Jerusalem to say Iran's demand to remove sanctions swiftly should only deepen worldwide distrust of Iran.
"In the last few days, Iran has shown again why it can't be trusted. Iran insists on maintaining its formidable nuclear capabilities with which it could produce nuclear weapons," Mr Netanyahu said at a news conference. "Iran insists on removing all sanctions immediately, and Iran refuses to allow effective inspections of all its suspect facilities. At the same time, Iran continues its unbridled aggression in the region and its worldwide terrorism in the world.
"Iran needs a deal more than anyone. Instead of making dangerous concessions to Iran, now is the time for the international community to reassert and fortify its original demands for a better deal. We must not allow Iran, the foremost sponsor of global terrorism to have an easy path to nuclear weapons which will threaten the entire world," he added.
Under the framework deal, Iran would be required to shut down parts of its nuclear programme that could be used to build a bomb, and accept intrusive inspections, in exchange for the West lifting economic sanctions.
The United States has said such sanctions would be removed gradually. Negotiators need to finalise technical details by June 30.