Israel on Thursday denounced Iran’s call to acknowledge its nuclear weapons, accusing new leader Hassan Rouhani of diverting attention from the regime’s own nuclear work.
Rouhani, who is seeking a deal with the West on a nuclear standoff, called in a UN speech for the abolition of all nuclear weapons and urged Israel to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Yuval Steinitz, the head of the Israeli delegation at the UN General Assembly, said Rouhani was trying “to smile his way to the bomb.”
“The man is an expert with tricks,” Steinitz, Israel’s minister for strategic and intelligence affairs, told AFP.
“Instead of saying that Iran will finally comply with the Security Council resolutions, it tries to shift attention to Israel,” he said.
“Israel is a very responsible country, a responsible democracy, that needs to survive and defend itself in one of the most difficult and hostile neighborhoods on the face of the earth,” he said.
Rouhani is hoping for a deal to end biting sanctions imposed over Iran’s sensitive uranium work, which Western officials and Israel says could be used to develop a nuclear bomb.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Rouhani, a self-described moderate who swept to power in June elections, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and refused to rule out a military strike.
Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons but does not publicly acknowledge its arsenal and, unlike Iran, has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty that allows for international regulation.