Renewed international efforts to negotiate curbs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program have backfired by giving it more time to work on building a bomb, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
His remarks on the inconclusive Feb. 26-27 meeting between Iran and six world powers came on the same day Iranian media reported that Iran is building some 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, which could bring the red line for stopping Tehran significantly closer.
Senior U.S. diplomat Wendy Sherman flew in to brief Israel about the Kazakh-hosted talks, in which Tehran was offered modest relief from sanctions in return for halting mid-level uranium enrichment.
There was no breakthrough. The sides will reconvene in Almaty on April 5-6 after holding technical talks in Istanbul.
“My impression from these talks is that the only thing that is gained from them is a buying of time, and through this time-buying Iran intends to continue enriching nuclear material for an atomic bomb and is indeed getting closer to this goal,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet in remarks aired by Israeli media.
Extrapolating from U.N. reports on Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, a short technical step from weapons-grade, Netanyahu has set a mid-2013 “red line” for denying the Islamic republic the fuel needed for a first bomb.
Israel’s dovish president, Shimon Peres, sounded more upbeat after meeting Sherman last Thursday. Peres said he had “total faith in the Obama administration, in its commitment and its actions in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”
Appealing to potential party allies to rally with him in the name of national security, Netanyahu told his Cabinet: “To my regret this is not happening, and in the coming days I will continue my efforts to unify and galvanize forces ahead of the major national and international challenges that we face.”