PRAGUE – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday he is skeptical that Iran will agree to halt its nuclear program, accusing Tehran of playing a "chess game" with the international community.
Just days ahead of a crucial round of nuclear talks with Tehran, Netanyahu said "nothing would be better than to just see this issue solved diplomatically."
"But I have to say I see no evidence whatsoever that Iran is serious about ending its nuclear program," he said.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are gearing up for a May 23 meeting with Iran in Baghdad.
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, like energy production. The West and Israel suspect Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Israel says a nuclear weapon in the hands of Iran would threaten the Jewish state's survival.
Speaking briefly after meeting Czech President Vaclav Klaus in Prague, Netanyahu called the Iranian nuclear program "the paramount issue of our time."
He repeated Israeli demands to be met for the negotiations to be successful: all uranium enrichment inside Iran has to be frozen, its current stockpile of enriched uranium has to be shipped out of the country and an underground enrichment facility near the city of Qom has to be dismantled.
"When this is achieved, I'm the first one to applaud. But until then, you have to count me among the skeptics," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu did not present any ultimatums, but Israeli officials have said time is running out to avoid military action. Also the U.S. has said it has plans in place to attack Iran if necessary to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons
In Prague, Netanyahu accused Iran of using the talks just to "buy time, pretty much as North Korea did for years," going "from meeting to meeting with empty promises."
"Iran is very good in playing this chess game," he said.