Last updated: 14 October, 2013

Israel minister calls for pressure on Iran to be kept up

The Israeli intelligence minister called on the major powers on Monday to maintain pressure on Iran, saying that was what was driving it to seek a deal in nuclear talks.

Yuval Steinitz, who is also minister for international relations, was speaking on the eve of revived negotiations on Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme between Iranian officials and the P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany.

“Iran needs agreement urgently,” Steinitz told reporters in Jerusalem.

“The Iranian economy is in very bad shape… the dilemma will be crystal clear to them, that if they want to save their economy, they need to give up their nuclear project,” he said.

“The Iranians are coming to dialogue… only because of the very severe economic pressure.”

The new Iranian government of President Hassan Rouhani has pledged a fresh approach to the nuclear talks as it seeks relief from crippling EU and US sanctions, that have badly hit Iran’s oil exports and access to global banking.

Steinitz insisted, however, that a “credible military threat would increase the chances” of reaching agreement in the nuclear talks.

He cited Iran’s ally Syria as an example of the threat of force achieving disarmament, saying Damascus had agreed last month to destroy its chemical arsenal only because US military action looked imminent.

“I am confident that if we sat here one year ago, none of us, including myself, would dream or think that it’s possible (President Bashar) al-Assad would sign an agreement to dismantle his chemical weapons, but also to dismantle production capacity to produce chemical weapons in the future.”

But US President Barack Obama “came with a credible military threat, and suddenly there is a diplomatic breakthrough, and Syria did sign a clear commitment to dismantle all its chemical weapons… and production facilities,” he said.

Israel has repeatedly threatened military action to prevent any chance of Iran developing a nuclear weapon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly earlier this month that Israel was ready to do so unilaterally if necessary.