Iran’s Foreign Minister accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of peddling lies Sunday over Tehran’s nuclear activities, and defended his country’s “non-negotiable” right to enrich uranium.
Mohammad Jawad Zarif told US television that Netanyahu — en route to the United States for talks and a speech at the United Nations — was wrong to allege that Iran’s recent moves to cooperate with the West amount to little more than an insincere charm offensive.
Netanyahu has dismissed new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s drive to mend fences with the international community. Such steps led to the latter’s 15-minute telephone call with President Barack Obama last week.
Netanyahu has accused Rouhani of being a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” whose talk of allaying western concerns is a confidence trick and on Sunday he called on the Jewish state’s US ally not to be fooled.
“I intend to tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and charm offensive of Iran,” Israeli public radio quoted Netanyahu as saying before he boarded a plane for Washington.
However Zarif insisted Rouhani in the past week had taken necessary first steps “towards removing the tensions and doubts and misgivings” Iran and the United States “have had about each other for the last 30-some years.”
“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack,” Zarif said in an interview with ABC Television’s “This Week” political talk show.
“Mr Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991, and you can check your records, that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon.
“We’re 22 years after that and they are still saying we’re six months away from a nuclear weapon,” he added.
Zarif reiterated that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear bomb and does not need the military-grade uranium required for such, but he insisted that the Islamic state is entitled to pursue atomic energy plans “because that’s our right.”
He also said it was in the world’s interest to allow Iran to pursue such activities as otherwise its nuclear scientists “could go on the black market, seeking employment opportunities.”
But sanctions imposed by western governments in recent years are the major hurdle in the way of a deal being reached, he maintained.
“Sanctions are not a useful tool of implementing policy. And the United States needs to change that,” Zarif said.
“Negotiations are on the table to discuss various aspects of Iran’s enrichment program. Our right to enrich is non-negotiable,” he added.