OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday the international community should not fall into the “trap” of renewed nuclear talks with Iran, adding that he would not set any “red lines” that would trigger military action.
Netanyahu also urged the international community to impose demands on Iran, including the dismantling of a key uranium enrichment facility and the shipment of all enriched uranium out of the Islamic Republic.
The Israeli prime minister spoke just days ahead of a crucial White House meeting where he and President Barack Obama are expected to discuss how the suspect Iranian nuclear program should be handled.
On Friday, The Atlantic magazine ran an expansive interview with Obama in which he said the U.S. was not “bluffing” about attacking Iran if it were to build a nuclear weapon _ his most direct threat in months of escalating tensions over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Tehran claims its nuclear program is meant to produce energy and medical isotopes, but neither the U.S. nor Israel believes that.
Israel considers Iran to be its most formidable foe because of its nuclear program, its arsenal of ballistic missiles, its proxies who have warred with Israel, and Iran’s repeated references to Israel’s destruction.
At a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Netanyahu said Iran could enter nuclear talks to try to ease mounting pressure from tough new international sanctions, but he asserted this would be a tactic to buy time.
“It could pursue or exploit the talks as they have done in the past to deceive and to delay so that they can continue to advance their nuclear program and get to the nuclear finish line by running the clock,” Netanyahu said. “I think the international community should not fall into this trap.”
The international community should make its demands on Iran clear, he added: Dismantle the underground nuclear facility in Qom, stop the enrichment of uranium _ a key element of bombmaking _ and get all enriched uranium out of Iran.
“And when I say all the material, I mean all the material,” he said.
Tehran announced months ago that it was stepping up enrichment at its Fordo site near the holy city of Qom to 20 percent. Anything above that level of enrichment would be considered indisputable evidence that Tehran was moving to weapons-grade operations.
Although Israel says it hasn’t decided whether to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, it has signaled readiness to do so. Some senior Israeli officials say Israel would have to act by summer in order to get at operations that Iran is moving deep underground to heavily fortified bunkers.
U.S. officials, wary that an Israeli strike could drive up oil prices and entangle the U.S. in a new Mideast military confrontation during this year’s presidential election season, want to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to work. The U.S., with its superior firepower, would have longer than Israel to attack.
Israeli leaders have strongly hinted that they want to hear clearer terms from Obama on what the United States would do if Iran were to cross the threshold from nuclear energy to nuclear weapons.
In his interview with The Atlantic, Obama for the first time explicitly referred to the possible use of military force, saying a “military component” was part of a mix of options for dealing with Iran, that also included diplomacy and sanctions.
He also firmly rejected the notion that the United States might settle for a strategy of deterring Iran from using a nuclear weapon.
But he added that he doesn’t “go around advertising exactly what our intentions are” _ an apparent reference to Israeli demands for “red lines” to be drawn. White House spokesman Jay Carney later said that “it is not strategically in the United States’ interests to draw explicit red lines as to what hypothetical actions by Iran would result in a specific reaction by the United States.”
Netanyahu, apparently acknowledging U.S. resistance to the Israeli demand, said at the news conference in Ottawa that “I have not drawn red lines, and I will not draw red lines for the U.S.”
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto and Ben Feller in Washington contributed to this report.