Israel warns time short to stop Iranian nuclear plans

Benjamin Netanyahu: "A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped"

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said time is running out to put a stop to Iran's nuclear programme.

Speaking to a pro-Israel conference in the US, Mr Netanyahu said he could not allow his people to "live in the shadow of annihilation".

Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, and speculation of a pre-emptive strike has recently grown.

US President Barack Obama has said there is still time for diplomacy, but that all options remain open.

Tehran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful.

Speaking to some 13,000 delegates at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) on Monday night, Mr Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was "determined to prevent Iran having nuclear weapons".

"Unfortunately, Iran's nuclear programme has continued to march forward," he said.

Analysis

There were two speeches and two vital sets of messages, one directed squarely at Tehran - that both Israel and the United States will do everything they can to prevent Iran having a nuclear weapon.

But just as important were the messages between Israel and its main ally, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting that Israel cannot give up its own freedom of action, while from President Barack Obama, there was the clearest assertion yet that Washington does not believe in containment. Iran will not get nuclear arms on this president's watch.

For Mr Obama there is still time for diplomacy and sanctions to take effect. But the fundamental problem remains: as Iran's nuclear facilities go underground, Israel's window of opportunity to act militarily runs out long before that of the Americans.

And that leaves one central question unanswered: is Israel ready to forego a strike against Iran trusting that the Americans will act at some point in the future?

"Israel has waited for diplomacy to work, we've waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer.

"As prime minister of Israel I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation."

He stressed that all options were on the table, but that containment - leaving Iran to develop its programme under monitoring - was "not an option".

"The Jewish state will not allow those who seek our destruction the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped," Mr Netanyahu told Aipac.

He waved a copy of a 1944 letter in which the US War Department refused Jewish leaders' requests to bomb the Auschwitz Nazi death camp on the grounds that it "might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans".

"Today, we have a state of our own," he said. "And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future."

'Diplomatic window'

In his meeting with Mr Netanyahu at the White House on Monday, Mr Obama said the bond between their countries was "unbreakable".

He said the US believed there was "still a window that allows for a diplomatic resolution", on Iran, but added that the US would consider "all options".

Both Israel and the US understand the "costs of any military action", he said.

Start Quote

Both men know that a lack of unity can only benefit a common enemy. But the disagreement between them is profound”

End Quote

Mr Netanyahu replied that Israel "must reserve the right to defend itself" and must remain "the master of its fate".

The two leaders are said to have a cool relationship. In May 2011, during a visit to Washington, correspondents noted the frosty body language between the two leaders.

In his own address to Aipac on Sunday, Mr Obama said there had been too much "loose talk" of war with Iran, which was benefiting Tehran as it was driving up the price of oil, which funds the nuclear programme.

He said Iran was isolated and there was an opportunity "for diplomacy - backed by pressure - to succeed".

"Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment - I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," he said.

"And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."

'Serious concerns'

Start Quote

If President Obama sticks to his current position... Prime Minister Netanyahu might decide to take a shot at Iran sooner”

End Quote

After years of international pressure and the repeated failure of negotiations and offers of talks with Tehran, talk has grown in recent months of a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

The US has pushed for the imposition of ever-stricter sanctions against Iran, including recent curbs on its central bank and its ability to export oil to the West.

Yet despite the ratcheting up of sanctions, speculation has been mounting that Israel might choose to attack Iran sometime during 2012.

Hours before the US-Israeli meetings Yukiya Amano, head of the UN's nuclear agency, reiterated that his organisation had "serious concerns" that Iran could be hiding secret work on developing atomic weapons.

Citing a recent agency report, he said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was unable "to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities".

More on This Story

Rouhani's Iran

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Middle East stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ConcordeTime for change

    BBC Future looks at the crashes that altered plane designs forever

Programmes

  • French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier HARDtalk Watch

    French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier on why he uses unconventional models in shows

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.