Middle East

Netanyahu: Iran is a bigger threat than Islamic State

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York - 29 September 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu railed against Iran and Hamas during his speech at the UN General Assembly meeting

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that a nuclear Iran is a bigger threat to the world than Islamic State (IS) militants.

In a speech at the UN, he said that to defeat IS but ignore Iran would be "to win the battle but lose the war".

Mr Netanyahu also urged the West not to be fooled by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's "charm offensive".

Talks between Iran and world powers on its nuclear programme ended on Friday with no breakthrough.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Mr Netanyahu said a nuclear-armed Iran would pose the "gravest threat to us all".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Rouhani met UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week. Mr Netanyahu said Iran was on a "charm offensive"

He also accused Mr Rouhani of "phony tears" for speaking out against IS militants in Iraq and Syria, saying Iran's leader was engaging in a "terror campaign" of his own.

"Make no mistake, [Islamic State] must be defeated, but to defeat [IS] and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war."

Israel has repeatedly warned the West against making concessions to Iran over its nuclear programme and opposes a role for Iran in the international effort to defeat Islamic State.

The so-called P5+1, comprised of the UK, China, France, Russia, the US plus Germany, suspect Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons, a claim it denies. Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful civilian purposes.

The talks are aimed at getting Iran to agree to scale back its uranium enrichment programme in return for the lifting of Western sanctions. A new deadline of 24 November has been set to reach a deal.

Hamas attack

Mr Netanyahu also railed against world leaders for condemning Israel's war against Hamas militants in Gaza, saying Hamas and IS were "branches of the same poisonous tree".

On Friday, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of carrying out a "war of genocide" after launching a major military operation in Gaza on 8 July.

In return, the Israeli prime minister accused Hamas of carrying out "the real war crimes", saying its fighters had used children as human shields in areas where it was firing rockets into Israel.

"Israel was using its missiles to protect its children. Hamas was using its children to protect its missiles," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Netanyahu showed an image that he said was a Hamas rocket positioned close to Palestinian children

He also likened Hamas, Islamic State and other extremist groups to "another fanatic ideology that swept into power eight decades ago".

"The Nazis believed in a master race, the militant Islamists believe in a master faith," Mr Netanyahu said. "They just disagree who among them will be the master of the master faith."

In a statement, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organisation said Mr Netanyahu's speech was "a blatant manipulation of facts".

The 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas left about 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead.

Following several short-lived ceasefires, both sides agreed to an open-ended truce on 26 August which has so far held.