Israel not seeking war with Iran: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in Tel Aviv on Monday of Iran's past research into nuclear weapons technology.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in Tel Aviv on Monday of Iran's past research into nuclear weapons technology.PHOTO: REUTERS

Remarks come a day after Israeli PM says he has proof of Teheran's secret nuclear arms programme

WASHINGTON • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday said Israel was not seeking war with Iran, one day after unveiling what he said was "proof" of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme that could be activated at any time.

Mr Netanyahu made his case as President Donald Trump considers whether to withdraw the United States from a 2015 deal between Iran and six major powers aimed at limiting Teheran's nuclear programme.

Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Trump have long criticised the agreement and, in several US television interviews yesterday, Mr Netanyahu made his points directly to the American people.

Mr Trump himself is known to watch and tweet his reactions to early morning US programmes.

Asked if Israel is prepared to go to war against Iran over the issue, Mr Netanyahu told CNN: "Nobody's seeking that kind of development. Iran is the one that's changing the rules in the region."

Iran, which has always said its nuclear programme was for strictly peaceful means, dismissed Mr Netanyahu's elaborate televised presentation on Monday as propaganda, and branded him an "infamous liar" over his allegations.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi called the accusations that Teheran lied about its nuclear ambitions "worn-out, useless and shameful".

Mr Netanyahu's comments came from a "broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits", Mr Ghasemi said in a statement.

Weighing in, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Mr Netanyahu's presentation "underlines the importance" of the controls imposed on Teheran in the 2015 deal.

"The Israeli Prime Minister's presentation on Iran's past research into nuclear weapons technology underlines the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal's constraints on Teheran's nuclear ambitions," he said in a statement.

France's Foreign Ministry also said that information provided by Israel of Iran's past nuclear weapons programme could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Teheran's nuclear activities.

However, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Mr Netanyahu's allegations do "not put into question" Teheran's compliance with the 2015 deal.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump had said on Monday that pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal would not have a negative impact on his upcoming talks with North Korea, and that he would be open to negotiating a new nuclear accord with Teheran.

Mr Trump faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull the US out of the 2015 agreement, which offered Teheran relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

"I trust his judgment," Mr Netanyahu told Fox News' Fox & Friends programme, a show Mr Trump has frequently praised.

"He'll do the right thing."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2018, with the headline 'Israel not seeking war with Iran: Netanyahu'. Print Edition | Subscribe