Netanyahu: easing pressure on Iran would be ‘historic mistake’

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It would be a “historic mistake” if Western powers ease pressure on Iran over its nuclear program at this stage, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday.

“It would be a historic mistake to ease the pressure on Iran a moment before the sanctions achieve their objective,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying at the opening of the Israeli parliament’s winter session.

Meanwhile, Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli minister responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, said stiff Western pressure can deter Iran from pursuing atomic weapons.

Steinitz said if the Iranians were presented with a real choice between the well-being of their economy and the continued enrichment of uranium, they may abandon their nuclear ambitions.

Nuclear talks start Tuesday

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear powers will begin Tuesday in Geneva. It will be the first since the June election of President Hassan Rowhani, a relative moderate who wants to thaw Iran’s icy relations with the West to secure the removal of punitive sanctions that have marred its oil-based economy.

On Monday, Iran’s Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed hope that Tehran and world powers can agree at talks this week on a roadmap towards defusing the stand-off over the Islamic republic’s nuclear activity.

But Zarif warned the process would be complex.

“Tomorrow is the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward. I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution,” Reuters quoted Zarif as saying in a message posted on his Facebook account late on Sunday.

“But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will likely require another meeting at ministerial level.”

(With Reuters, AFP and Associated Press)

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