Israeli PM lashes out as Iran nuclear talks intensify


UntitledLAUSANNE, Switzerland – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a dire warning Sunday about a possible nuclear accord with Iran as talks in Switzerland towards the outline of a deal intensified days before a deadline.

“The dangerous accord which is being negotiated in Lausanne confirms our concerns and even worse,” Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast on public radio.

He said the “Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis” was “dangerous for all of humanity” and that combined with Tehran’s regional influence, a nuclear deal could allow Iran to “conquer” the Middle East.

Israel, widely assumed to have nuclear weapons itself, is concerned that a deal that six powers are trying to agree the contours of by midnight on March 31 will fail to stop Iran from getting the bomb.

Iran, hit hard by international sanctions, denies wanting nuclear weapons and insists that its atomic program is purely for peaceful purposes. Israel, not Iran, is the real regional danger, Tehran says.

In Lausanne meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry cancelled plans to leave for an event in Boston on Monday in order to keep negotiating, the State Department said.

His French and German counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, both due in Kazakhstan on Monday, have followed suit, diplomats said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Lausanne on Sunday morning. Russian and British top diplomats Sergei Lavrov and Philip Hammond were expected later, completing the line-up of foreign ministers from the six powers.

Kerry met again early Sunday with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the latest in a flurry of closed-door discussions at a luxury hotel in the Swiss town.

Asked afterwards if he was going to get a deal, Kerry said: “I don’t know.”

Kerry is under pressure to return from Lausanne with something concrete to head off a push by Republican lawmakers to introduce yet more sanctions, potentially torpedoing the whole negotiating process.

Officials have expressed guarded optimism that after 18 months of tortuous negotiations and two missed deadlines that a breakthrough might be in sight for a deal ending 12 years of tensions.

“If we manage to resolve all the remaining issues today or in the next two to three days, then we can begin to draw up a text. But for the moment we are still in discussions,” a source close to the Iranian delegation said Sunday.