Iran is looking to deceive the world over its nuclear program in talks with the P5+1 group of world powers, Israel premier Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday after talks with Czech President Vaclav Klaus.
“It looks as though they see the talks as another opportunity to delay and deceive and buy time, pretty much as North Korea did for many years,” he said, just days ahead of the next round of negotiations which are to take place in Baghdad on May 23.
“They might try to go from meeting-to-meeting with empty promises. They might agree to something in principle, but not implement it. They might even agree to implement something, but nothing that would actually derail their nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in the Czech capital.
The P5+1 grouping of diplomats from permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany held a first round of talks with Iran on April 14 in Istanbul and a second round is due to take place in Baghdad on May 23.
But Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed skepticism that the talks would succeed in convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which Israel and much of the West believes is a bid to develop atomic weapons – a charge denied by Tehran.
“Iran is good at playing this kind of chess game, they know that sometimes you have to sacrifice a pawn to save the king,” Netanyahu added, saying he had “seen no evidence whatsoever that Iran is serious about ending its nuclear weapons program.”
Israel is reportedly concerned the upcoming talks could ultimately end with a deal that would allow Tehran to continue enriching uranium.
“The goal of the negotiations should be very clear –freeze all nuclear enrichment activity inside Iran, take all nuclear-enriched material outside of Iran, and dismantle the underground nuclear facility near the city of Qom,” he said, repeating demands laid out last week to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
“When this is achieved I will be the first one to applaud, but until then, you’ll have to count me among the skeptics.”
Israel, widely considered the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, has consistently warned a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state, and has refused to rule out a pre-emptive strike in a bid to halt it.