Last updated: 24 March, 2015

Israeli minister warns French against ‘bad accord’ with Iran

An Israeli cabinet minister visiting Paris warned Tuesday against concluding a “bad accord” on Iran’s nuclear programme, telling French daily Le Monde his country shares France’s wariness of trusting Tehran.

“We believe it would be a bad accord with severe gaps in it,” said Israeli Intelligence Minister Youval Steinitz, who met French President Francois Hollande’s diplomatic advisor on Monday.

The visit came amid an Israeli lobbying campaign against a nuclear accord with Iran, which saw Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deliver a controversial address to the US Congress warning legislators about any deal.

“This is perhaps the last opportunity to influence these negotiations before a memorandum of understanding is signed,” Steinitz said.

Tehran and the world’s major powers are facing a March 31 deadline to conclude a framework agreement to pare back Iran’s nuclear programme to ensure it can never build an atomic bomb.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif are scheduled to resume talks in Lausanne Thursday in a bid to beat this month’s deadline for a deal that must be finalised by July.

But as efforts to make sufficient progress to conclude a deal in time have picked up pace, divisions have appeared within the so-called P5+1 group made up of the UN Security Council permanent members the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia plus Germany.

Paris in particular has expressed fears a rush to sign an agreement may grant Iran enough concessions for Tehran to cheat or otherwise pursue military nuclear development.

During his visit, Steinitz echoed French concerns about an overly flexible deal.

“We see things the same way France does. We have the same suspicions about Iran, its intentions in the Middle East and the possibility it will not respect the accord,” Steinitz warned.

“If Iran became a (nuclear) country, many Sunni nations in the region would join the nuclear race.”

Israel itself is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East but has an official policy of neither confirming or denying it has such an arsenal.