AFP – Israel’s international affairs minister on Thursday said there were “small differences” with the United States over the Iranian nuclear issue, a week after direct talks between Tehran and world powers.
“We generally see eye to eye with the Americans on the final objective, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but there are sometimes small differences over the way to do that,” Yuval Steinitz, who is also intelligence minister, told Israeli public radio.
Steinitz, who was on a visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the US to discuss Iran, did not elaborate, but added that sanctions against Tehran must not be relaxed until there is “an agreement guaranteeing 100 percent that Iran will never be able to have a nuclear weapon.”
Israel has repeatedly warned against the so-called charm offensive of Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani, which led to direct talks between Tehran and the P5+1 countries — United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany — held in Geneva on October 15 and 16.
The Jewish state, the Islamic republic’s arch-foe, has insisted there be no relief for Iran from crippling economic sanctions which it says brought it to the table in the first place.
Israel, the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power, wants Iran to meet four conditions before the sanctions are eased: halting all uranium enrichment; removing all enriched uranium from its territory; closing its underground nuclear facility in Qom; and halting construction of a plutonium reactor.
Western countries, along with Israel, suspect Iran’s nuclear activities are aimed at military objectives, a claim Tehran vehemently denies.
Steinitz said Israel does not oppose Iran’s right to civilian nuclear energy, but insisted it must not be able to enrich its own uranium, which is required for nuclear fuel but can also be used to develop a warhead.
Ahead of marathon talks in Rome with Netanyahu on Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said “words are no substitute for actions” on the Iran nuclear issue, adding that it was too early to talk about easing sanctions on the country.
At the same time he hailed the recent signs of openness in Iran following Rouhani’s election and said the country should now respect the same rules as other nuclear powers.