Tehran weathering sanctions on oil industry, Netanyahu says (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN 07/02/12)
TIMES OF ISRAEL
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One day after EU imposes embargo, PM says sanctions are unpleasant,
but ‘not terrible’
Sanctions on Iran are not having an especially potent impact on the
Islamic Republic, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, a
day after an EU embargo on Iranian oil went into effect.
Netanyahu also called on the world to remain firm in talks with Iran
on curbing its nuclear program.
In a closed session of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee, Netanyahu said Iran knew how to cope with sanctions on its
oil industry: by dipping into the state’s financial reserves.
“At this stage the sanctions are on the level of not pleasant, but
not terrible either,” the prime minister said.
On Sunday, the European Union set in place strict sanctions against
Iran’s oil industry, a move Tehran acknowledged was taking a toll on
the nation’s economy.
Sanctions are generally seen as the last bulwark to stop Iran’s
nuclear program short of a military option.
Netanyahu’s statement came a day ahead of planned low-level talks
between Iran and several world powers over the nuclear program.
The prime minister called on the so-called P5+1 group, the permanent
members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, to not
give in to Tehran’s demands to be allowed to enrich uranium to the
level of 20 percent.
Netanyahu added that the Islamic Republic is already enriching enough
uranium for four bombs at the level of 3 percent. Iran would need to
continue to enrich the uranium to 93 percent to reach weaponization.
After three unsuccessful rounds, nuclear talks between Tehran and the
P5+1 broke down last month. No further date for a high-level meeting
between was set, but on Tuesday technical experts from the six world
powers and Iran are scheduled to meet in Moscow for lower level talks.
According to a statement from European Union foreign policy chief
Catherine Ashton, Tuesday’s meeting aims at providing “further
clarification” of the P5+1’s proposal, an increase of the powers’
understanding of the Iranian response given in Moscow and to “study
the issues raised by Iran during the sessions.”
“We hope Iran will seize the opportunity of this meeting to show a
willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of
the international community, to build confidence in the peaceful
nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to meet its international
obligations,” Ashton said.
During a three-hour session of Knesset committee, Netanyahu said that
during the last rounds of nuclear talks, the P5+1 powers had lowered
their demands. Whereas originally they demanded Tehran stop
enrichment at 3 percent, they now seem willing to accept that grade
of enrichment, asking Iran only to cease enriching at 20 percent, the
prime minister said.
“We say that the powers must demand now what they demanded in the
past: no enrichment at over three percent,” he said.
“The Iranians are simply fooling the world,” Netanyahu added. “The
Iranians do not detect any determination on part of the world powers
to stop their nuclear project.”
Netanyahu also spoke about the ongoing violence in Syria, condemning
the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests by President Bashar
“Iran and Hezbollah are in contact with Assad on a daily basis, to
see what can be done to help him,” Netanyahu said. “Without the
support of Iran and Hezbollah, which includes many fighters on the
ground, I don’t believe Assad would be able to hold on.”
As of now, Israel has not yet been able to identify leaders of the
Syrian opposition who could replace Assad, Netanyahu said. While the
pressure on the Syrian president to step down increases, it is
unclear what will happen on the day after, Netanyahu told the
“We fear that advanced arms systems, including chemical weapons,
could fall into the hands of Hezbollah, to global Jihad forces or al-
Qaeda,” he said.
It is also possible, but rather unlikely, that Assad would use these
kind of weapons against his own people “in an irrational way,”
Netanyahu said. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 07/02/12)
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