JERUSALEM – World powers are being too soft over Iran's nuclear program by only asking an end to low grade enrichment, Israel's prime minister said Tuesday, charging that Tehran is proceeding to develop atomic weapons.
Iran held nuclear talks in Baghdad last week with six powers — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany. The talks accompanied reports that Iran had enriched uranium to more than 20 percent. Israel and the West fear that could be quickly boosted to weapons-grade material of 95 percent.
"After several rounds of talks, the Iranians were only asked to stop low level enrichment of uranium," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a security conference at Tel Aviv University Tuesday night.
"Not only have the Iranians not done this, they continue to enrich uranium and lately enriched uranium to more than 20 percent. They are proceeding all the time with their plans to develop nuclear bombs," Netanyahu said.
The West believes Iran is probably seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies.
Israel views a nuclear Iran as an existential threat because of its frequent calls for Israel's destruction, nuclear and missile development programs and support of violent anti-Israel groups.
Israel has hinted at a possible military strike if diplomacy does not remove the nuclear threat.
Netanyahu said the world powers should be tougher in their demands on Iran.
"Iran must stop all nuclear enrichment, remove from its territory all material that has been enriched until now and demolish the underground (nuclear) facility in Qom," Netanyahu said.
"Only an explicit Iranian commitment in negotiations to carry out these three demands and verification they have been done can stop the Iranian nuclear project," he said. "Unfortunately, that is not what is being demanded from Iran today."
Netanyahu also addressed the impasse in peace talks with the Palestinians. Negotiations stalemated over the issue of construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The Palestinian demand that all settlement construction halt as a condition for talks to resume.
Israel maintains that the issue of settlements would be solved automatically once there are agreed-upon borders and rejects any preconditions to negotiations.
Netanyahu said Tuesday that a peace agreement must be reached in order to prevent emergence of a single, binational state. "We don't want to rule the Palestinians, and we don't want the Palestinians as citizens of Israel," he said.
Earlier this month the two sides communicated their positions by letter. Netanyahu appealed to the Palestinians to resume face to face talks.
"I call on (Palestinian) President (Mahmoud) Abbas to give peace a chance. Negotiations require two sides. One side is ready," he said.