Middle East

Israel PM calls Iran leader 'wolf in sheep's clothing'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against working with the Iranian government.

In a speech to the UN General Assembly, he described President Hassan Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing".

He said Israel would not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons, even if it had to stand alone on the issue.

Iran replied that it had no intention of developing nuclear weapons, and called Mr Netanyahu's comments "extremely inflammatory".

There has recently been a thaw in relations between the US and Iran, with Mr Rouhani and US President Barack Obama recently speaking on the phone together - the first top-level conversation between the two countries for more than 30 years.

But Mr Obama assured Mr Netanyahu on Monday that the use of force was still on the table in dealing with Tehran's nuclear programme.

Iran's Foreign Minister Javed Zarif responded by criticising Mr Obama for what he termed "flip-flopping" on negotiations between the two nations.

Combative words

In his address to the UN, Mr Netanyahu said Israel's future was threatened by a "nuclear-armed" Iran, and urged other nations to keep up sanctions against the country.

He accused Mr Rouhani of having the same goal as his more hard-line predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing. Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing,'' Mr Netanyahu said.

President Rouhani has strongly denied that his government is seeking to manufacture nuclear weapons, but Mr Netanyahu said: "I wish I could believe Rouhani. But I don't."

He suggested Mr Rouhani was seeking to "fool the world", adding: "Rouhani thinks he can have his yellowcake and eat it too."

He claimed that Mr Rouhani - in his previous role as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator - masterminded a strategy that enabled his country to move closer to developing nuclear weapons.

The deputy Iranian ambassador to the UN, Khodadad Seifi, said Mr Netanyahu's statement was "extremely inflammatory".

He said: "I do not want to dignify such unfounded accusations with an answer other than categorically rejecting them all."

Mr Seifi said Israel was the only country in the Middle East that was not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), adding: "Israel has no choice but to accede to the NPT without any further delay and condition."

Tehran insists its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes, but last month the UN's nuclear agency said Iran had further boosted its capacity for uranium enrichment, installing more than 1,000 advanced centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment plant.

Iran is due to take part in substantive negotiations on its nuclear programme in Geneva on 15 October with a group of nations known as the P5+1, which include the US, Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany.

Mr Rouhani has said Iran will bring a plan to that meeting, but has not provided details.

The P5+1 have called on Tehran to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20%. Uranium enriched to 90% is required for a nuclear weapon.