BEIRUT

Middle East

Israel urges France not to waver on Iran

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a Likud-Beitenu faction meeting at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

PARIS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged France to stand firm in international negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

"We hope France will not yield," Netanyahu said in an interview to Le Figaro newspaper due out on Saturday, on the eve of French President Francois Hollande's visit to Israel.

"For us, the United States remains an important ally, the most important ally. But our relationship with France is also very special," he said.

France took a tougher line than its Western partners last week in Geneva talks aimed at resolving the impasse over Iran's nuclear program.

"On the Iran issue, our countries have defended common stances for years, regardless of the party in power, and we are maintaining this vital partnership with President Hollande," he said.

"We welcome his coherent and resolute stance on the Iranian issue," he said.

Iranian hardliners blamed France for scuppering a deal that would have given the West guarantees Tehran was not acquiring atomic weapons in exchange for an easing of crippling economic sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The Iranian government however stopped short of blaming France for the failure to reach an agreement in Geneva. The talks are due to resume next week.

Israel -- widely thought to be the Middle East's sole albeit undeclared nuclear power -- has repeatedly warned its Western allies they were being too soft with Iran.

"I strongly believe we should not lower our defences," Netanyahu said, calling the Iranian regime "aggressive, violent, messianic and apocalyptic."

"This country is in the process of acquiring intercontinental ballistic missiles, of which the Geneva draft accord says nothing," the hawkish premier said.

"And what are they for? Not for striking Israel, which they can already do, but for extending their reach to Paris, London, Washington or New York... When dealing with Iran, being weak or naive is not an option."

 

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