Netanyahu: Israel ‘utterly rejects’ Iran deal

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Israel “utterly rejects” a proposed deal on Iran's nuclear program aimed at ending a long-running row over its nuclear ambitions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday as he met Washington's top diplomat.

Iran had got “the deal of the century,” Netanyahu told reporters as he spoke in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

“Israel utterly rejects it and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly. Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people,” he said.

Israel has been enraged by news emerging from Geneva where the so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States plus Germany are meeting with Iranian officials for the latest round of talks over its controversial nuclear program.

Officials have said a long-awaited deal on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions may be finally within reach, after years of fruitless talks were given fresh momentum by the election of Iran's new President Hassan Rowhani, seen as a relative moderate.

Tel Aviv has warned that it can strike Iran if it did not halt its nuclear program.

However, Iran insists that its nuclear facilities are designed for civilian needs.

Netanyahu was meeting Kerry for the third time in barely 48 hours. The U.S. secretary of state was due to fly immediately afterwards to Geneva where Iran and six world powers are holding negotiations.

The United States has said world powers will consider relaxing some economic sanctions against Iran if it takes verifiable steps to limit its nuclear program.

Israel has called for the sanctions to remain in place until Iran has dismantled its entire enrichment program.

“I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva as well they should be because they got everything and paid nothing,” Netanyahu said.

“Everything they wanted, they wanted relief of sanctions after years of a grueling sanctions regime, they got that. They are paying nothing because they are not reducing in any way their nuclear enrichment capability,” he said.

An Israeli official declined to say what deal was brewing, or how Israel knew the details.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for European Union foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton said on Friday that world powers are working intensively to advance nuke talks in Geneva.

“Very intense work is continuing,” spokesman Michael Mann told reporters. “We hope to make progress today.”

(with AFP and Reuters)

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