Obama and Netanyahu discuss Iran by phone

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Nethanyahu discussed Iran in a Monday phone call, following the Israeli leader’s warnings that Tehran could convert uranium into weapons-grade material within weeks.

The White House said in a short statement that the leaders discussed Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and other key issues, reported Agence France-Presse.

Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Iran has the capacity of converting low-grade uranium to material suitable for use in a weapons program with weeks.

“The important part stems from technological improvements which allow Iran to enrich uranium from 3.5 percent to 90 percent in a number of weeks,” his office quoted him as saying at a cabinet meeting, according to AFP.

Netanyahu has repeatedly demanded an increased pressure on Iran and has expressed skepticism about the recent diplomatic rapprochement by new Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, which Netanyahu called a “charm offensive.”

Israel is demanding four conditions before international sanctions on Iran are eased: a halt to all uranium enrichment; the removal of all enriched uranium from its territory; the closure of an underground nuclear facility in Qom; and a halt to construction of a plutonium reactor.

The Obama administration has said it is important to test the sincerity of Iran’s promise to hold serious discussions on a nuclear program.

Secretary of State John Kerry later on Monday, stressed diplomacy as the way to try to resolve the dispute.

In a speech Monday at a disarmament forum, Kerry said the United States has “an opportunity to try to put to test whether or not Iran really desires to pursue only a peaceful program, and will submit to the standards of the international community in the effort to prove that to the world,” according to AFP.

He added: “I suggest that the idea that the United States of America, as a responsible nation to all of humankind, would not explore that possibility would be the height of irresponsibility.”

In response to the Israeli demand for more pressure, Kerry said “some have suggested that somehow there's something wrong” with giving diplomacy a chance, he was quoted as saying by AFP.

“We will not succumb to those fear tactics and forces that suggest otherwise,” Kerry said.

The West widely believes that Iran’s nuclear program is aimed at producing atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.

Iranian negotiators are this week holding a series of meetings in Vienna laying the groundwork for the upcoming nuclear talks with world powers in Geneva, to run from Nov. 7-8.

The first round of talks held in Geneva on Oct. 15-16 in which Iran presented to the six powers a new proposal to settle the dispute over its nuclear program, have ended a sixth-month suspension in diplomacy sparked by Iran’s refusal to curb uranium enrichment.

(With AFP)