Israel Bleak about U.S.-Iran Rapprochement at U.N. Summit
Jerusalem – Israel voiced concern on Tuesday over a potential meeting of the U.S. and Iranian presidents, saying Tehran’s conciliatory overtures to world powers masked an acceleration of its disputed nuclear program. An official Israeli assessment said Iran now had centrifuges for quickly turning low-enriched uranium into bomb fuel, putting it on a fast track to atomic arms even if it gave up uranium of mid-level purity which had previously been Israel’s focus.
Iran’s new government has gone on a charm offensive timed for the annual U.N. General Assembly, agreeing to international nuclear negotiations that would include its foreign minister seeing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. U.S. officials also said a meeting was possible this week between President Barack Obama and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani – a landmark after more than three decades of hostility.
Israel sees a mortal menace in an Iranian bomb it says could be six months from production and is wary of any let-up in Western pressure, backed by stringent sanctions, for a nuclear rollback by Tehran. Iran denies seeking atomic weapons. Asked if there would be an Obama-Rouhani handshake, Yuval Steinitz, the cabinet minister now representing Israel at the U.N. forum in New York, said: “I hope not. I don’t know.”
“But really the important thing is not just words and appearances. The important thing is the actions. The important thing is the resolutions,” Steinitz told Israel’s Army Radio. “And I really hope that the whole world, and chiefly among them the United States, will say, ‘Okay, it’s nice to hear the smiles, the new rhetoric, but as long as you don’t change the conduct, and as long as you don’t make a real concession in the nuclear project, the economic sanctions will continue and if there is need, will be joined by a military threat as well.'”
Iran has dismissed several U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at curbing its nuclear work with bomb-making potential. It has tried to shift scrutiny to Israel’s assumed atomic arsenal. (Reuters)