Israeli leader says world needs ‘better deal’ with Iran

Benjamin Netanyahu said a better deal would “significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure”

Published: Updated:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated his stern warning about a possible nuclear agreement with Iran on Wednesday, saying the world must insist on a “better deal” that links concessions to a change in Tehran’s behavior.

As negotiators continued talks in Switzerland a day after abandoning a March 31 deadline to reach the outline of a nuclear deal, Netanyahu said world powers were looking to ease sanctions on Iran while it continued to wreak havoc in the Middle East and threaten Israel with annihilation. He said a weak deal will reward Iran’s intransigence and endanger not only Israel but other nations in the region.

Netanyahu said Iran views Israel’s destruction as non-negotiable, “but evidently giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable. This is unconscionable,” he said. “At the same time, Iran is accelerating its campaign of terror, subjugation and conquest throughout the region, most recently in Yemen.”

Netanyahu said a better deal would “significantly roll back Iran’s nuclear infrastructure” and link a lifting of restrictions on its nuclear program to “a change in Iran’s behavior.”

“Iran must stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world and stop its threats to annihilate Israel. That should be non-negotiable and that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon,” he said.

Netanyahu has been a fierce critic of Western efforts to reach a deal with Iran and clashed openly with President Barack Obama over the wisdom of his outreach to the Islamic Republic.

While Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, Israel and Western nations suspect it is seeking a weapons capability. Netanyahu says no deal should allow Iran to continue enriching uranium and has raised several other reservations about the emerging agreement.

The discussions meanwhile dragged on in Lausanne, Switzerland, even as a self-imposed deadline passed and three of the six foreign ministers involved left the talks.

Claiming enough progress had been made to warrant an extension after six days of intense negotiations, and eager to avoid a collapse in the discussions, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his British and German counterparts huddled with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif in a marathon effort to bridge still-significant gaps and hammer out details of a framework accord. The foreign ministers of China, France and Russia all departed overnight.

The Obama administration has made a nuclear deal with Iran its primary foreign policy focus, and the outcome of the high-stakes negotiations could largely define his presidential legacy.

In addition to Netanyahu and several Arab nations, he has also faced opposition from Republicans at home who are eager to press forward with new, stiffer sanctions on Iran.

The White House says new sanctions would scuttle diplomatic efforts to roll back Iran’s nuclear program.

Visiting Israel, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, alluded to the issue.

“We’ve spent the last five days throughout the Middle East, and regardless of where in the Middle East we’ve been, the message has been the same: You can’t continue to turn your eye away from the threats that face all of us,” he said in Jerusalem alongside Netanyahu.