NEW YORK (CBSDC/AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Jewish state’s delegation to walk out of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani’s address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
“Despite the charm offensive by the new Iranian president, the policies of the regime toward Israel have not changed,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
Netanyahu reiterated he is not buying the new Iranian leader’s course for a moderate path, stating that Iran is still pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu said the world “should not be fooled” by signs of moderation from Tehran. He said Iran’s new outreach to the West is merely a ploy to ease international sanctions while it secretly builds a nuclear weapon.
“Iran thinks soothing words and token actions will enable it to continue on its path to the bomb,” Netanyahu said.
During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday morning, President Barack Obama welcomed the new Iranian government’s pursuit of a “more moderate course,” saying it should offer the basis for a breakthrough on Iran’s nuclear impasse with the United Nations and the U.S. He signaled a willingness to directly engage Iran’s leaders, tasking Secretary of State John Kerry with pursuing that diplomacy with Tehran.
“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested,” Obama said.
Obama, reflecting the skepticism of many in the U.S. and around the world, said Rouhani’s “conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.”
Obama said he was asking Kerry to pursue diplomatic progress with Iran, in coordination with five other world powers. Kerry will join representatives from those nations Thursday in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
It’s unclear whether Kerry and Zarif will meet one-on-one on the sidelines of that meeting. And Obama also offered no hints of whether he will meet Tuesday with Rouhani. Even a brief handshake would be significant, marking the first such encounter between U.S. and Iranian leaders in 36 years.
Zarif joined the Iranian delegation in the hall for Obama’s address. In Iran, the main domestic TV channels did not run speech live.
Netanyahu said Israel would welcome a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program, but noted that this is just a “smokescreen” by the Iranian government.
The West has long suspected that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Tehran has consistently denied the charge.
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