|New Iranian president poses challenge to Israel: article||
TEHRAN – The moderate approach adopted by new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a difficult position, AP wrote in an article published on Monday.
Following are excerpts of the text of the article:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided the UN with a memorable moment last year when he displayed a cartoon bomb illustrating what he said was Iran's march toward the development of a nuclear weapon. When he addresses the world body next week, he is expected to again call for a hard line to stop Iran's… nuclear program, backed by the credible use of force.
But the goalposts have moved a little: Some at the General Assembly's annual meeting will be calling for a more nuanced approach by the world in response to the emergence of a moderate Iranian president offering outreach...
This changing landscape has put Netanyahu in a difficult position. Convinced the latest signs of moderation by Iran are merely a ploy, the Israeli leader risks finding himself isolated as the international community, including President Barack Obama, tentatively engage the new Iranian president.
Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister for intelligence and strategic affairs,… said that despite some friendly gestures, Iran has shown no signs of slowing its efforts to enrich uranium...
Iran (says) its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. But critics in Israel and the West dismiss such explanations.
Israel has long claimed a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a grave threat to world peace and security.
While welcoming several rounds of economic sanctions against Iran, (Israel) says diplomatic pressure has not been enough and must be coupled with a credible threat of military action. Israel has repeatedly hinted that if needed, it is prepared to take unilateral military action against Iran's nuclear program if it believes diplomacy has failed.
Speaking to his cabinet last week, Netanyahu said he would make Iran the focus of his upcoming trip to the White House and the United Nations. He said he would make four key demands: that Iran stop enriching uranium, remove its existing stockpile of enriched uranium, close an underground enrichment facility in the central city of Qom and halt production of plutonium.
"Until all four of these measures are achieved, the pressure on Iran must be increased and not relaxed, and certainly not eased," he said.
That does not seem likely as Obama, who has always seemed reluctant to use force against Iran, appears set to give diplomacy another shot.
Since taking office last month, Rouhani has said he would like to peacefully resolve the nuclear standoff by finding a formula that would ease international sanctions in return for more nuclear transparency. Meanwhile, he has made a series of gestures toward the U.S., such as exchanging letters with Obama and telling the U.S. network NBC his country does not want nuclear weapons.
These gestures mark a dramatic departure from the policies of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who seemed to thrive on confrontation with Israel and the West. In another key shift, Rouhani appears to have the backing of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a sign his gestures are genuine.
The White House has cautiously welcomed Rouhani's outreach, raising speculation of a meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the UN gathering.
"We have a preference for resolving this issue diplomatically and that we're open to engagement with the Iranian government," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said last week. While calling for a "sense of urgency," Rhodes also said the White House believes there is still time for diplomacy.
Netanyahu may also face questions about Israel's changing assessments of Iranian capabilities. In his address to the UN last year, Netanyahu said Iran would reach the final phase of weapons production "at most" by mid-2013. In a published interview last week, Steinitz said Iran was "six months" away from weapons capability.
Pushing Iran too hard also risks drawing scrutiny toward Israel's own nuclear activities.
Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, though it neither confirms nor denies having them. Last week, Israel fended off an Arab-led attempt at the annual conference of the UN's nuclear agency to censure Israel's refusal to acknowledge having nuclear arms and put them under international oversight. Israel says an Israeli-Palestinian peace must be reached before creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
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