World Bulletin / News Desk
Israel voiced concern on Tuesday over a potential meeting of the U.S. and Iranian presidents, saying Tehran sought reconciliation with world powers as a ruse to press on with its nuclear programme.
Iran's new government has taken its charm offensive to the annual U.N. General Assembly, agreeing to international nuclear negotiations that would include its foreign minister seeing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
U.S. officials also said a meeting was possible this week between President Barack Obama and Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani - a landmark after more than three decades of hostility.
Iran has rejected several U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at curbing its nuclear projects with bomb-making potential, insisting the programme is entirely peaceful. It has also tried to shift scrutiny to Israel's assumed atomic arsenal.
Asked if there would be an Obama-Rouhani handshake, Yuval Steinitz, the cabinet minister representing Israel at the U.N. forum in New York, said: "I hope not. I don't know."
"But really the important thing is not just words and appearances. The important thing is the actions. The important thing is the resolutions," Steinitz told Israel's Army Radio.
"And I really hope that the whole world, and chiefly among them the United States, will say, 'Okay, it's nice to hear the smiles, the new rhetoric, but as long as you don't change the conduct, and as long as you don't make a real concession in the nuclear project, the economic sanctions will continue and if there is need, will be joined by a military threat as well'."
Rouhani and Obama were scheduled to deliver speeches to the General Assembly on Tuesday.
Steinitz said last week that Iran, on its current course, could make a nuclear weapon in six months. "There is no more time" for nuclear negotiations, he told the Israel Hayom daily.
But with a new round of such talks in the works, Steinitz reaffirmed Israel's position that it would support a diplomatic solution that truly halted Iran's nuclear programme. He described this as unlikely, saying Rouhani brought a deceptive change of style but not substance to Iranian policymaking.
"We are certainly warning the entire international community that Iran may want an agreement, but it is liable to be the Munich agreement," Steinitz said, referring to the 1938 appeasement of Nazi Germany.
"Rouhani wants to hoodwink, and some in the world want to be hoodwinked, and the role of little Israel is to explain the truth and to stand in the breach. And that is what we are doing to the best of our abilities. It is a long struggle."Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2013, 10:05