Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Barack Obama during talks at the White House on Monday to keep up tough sanctions on Iran until there is “verifiable success” that it had addressed Western concerns about its nuclear programme.
Mr. Netanyahu noted that Iran has said it is committed to Israel’s destruction and that recent overtures that it is willing to negotiate on its nuclear programme must be backed up with action.
“I believe that it’s the combination of a credible military threat and the pressure of those sanctions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “I also believe that if diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place. And I think they should not be lessened until there is verifiable success.” Mr. Obama on Friday became the first U.S. president since the 1979 Iranian revolution to speak with an Iranian president when he talked by telephone with Hassan Rouhani.
Mr. Obama told Mr. Netanyahu it was important to the security of both nations that Iran not possess a nuclear weapon. Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat and has not ruled out military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, and Mr. Obama reiterated on Monday that he also had taken no options off the table.
“We have to test diplomacy,” he told reporters after the meeting, but stressed the need to be “clear-eyed” about the challenges.
“Given the statements and actions from the Iranian regime in the past, the threats against Israel, the acts against Israel, it is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient,” Mr. Obama said. “We have to have actions that give the international community confidence that in fact they are meeting their international obligations fully and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon.” Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani’s call came after US efforts to arrange an informal exchange between the leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly were rejected by the Iranians.
Mr. Rouhani told the General Assembly last week that his country was poised to negotiate with the United States over the country’s disputed nuclear enrichment effort and that nuclear weapons “have no place in Iran’s security and defence doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.” Iran denies Western claims that it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its programme is peaceful.
Mr. Netanyahu will be the final speaker Tuesday at the U.N. General Assembly, where Iran’s nuclear programme and the Middle East peace talks will likely dominate his remarks.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu also discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the U.S. leader calling for “genuine negotiations” to produce a two-state solution, as well as Syria and Egypt.