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June 26, 2017

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Israel's Netanyahu draws 'red line' for Iran

UNITED NATIONS -- In his most detailed plea to date for global action against Iran's nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it can build a nuclear bomb.

Netanyahu flashed a diagram of a cartoon-like bomb before the U.N. General Assembly showing the progress Iran has made, saying it has already completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.

Then he pulled out a red marker and drew a line across what he said was a threshold Iran was approaching and which Israel could not tolerate — the completion of the second stage and 90 percent of the way to the uranium enrichment needed to make an atomic bomb.

"By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage," he said. "From there, it's only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb."

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel's destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups.

Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador took the floor at the General Assembly late Thursday to categorically reject Israel's "entirely baseless allegations," insisting that the country's nuclear program is purely peaceful.

Eshagh Al Habib accused Netanyahu of using "an unfounded and imaginary graph" to justify a military threat against Iran.

"Iran is strong enough to defend itself and reserves its full right to retaliate with full force against any attack," he said.

Al Habib urged the international community to exert pressure on Israel to end its "irresponsible behavior" and to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon party. Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons.

Neither the U.S. nor any of its international partners are ready to abandon diplomacy in favor of military or other actions to resolve the decade-long standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

On Thursday, six world powers decided to lay the groundwork for another round of negotiations with Iran, a senior U.S. official said, but they want a significantly improved offer from the Islamic republic.

The new hope for negotiated end came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with the foreign ministers of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — powers that have sought, over several rounds of talks, to persuade Iran to halt its production of material that could be used in nuclear weapons.

No date was set for the possible resumption of the so-called P5+1 talks with Iran, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

After looking for a diplomatic solution there, Clinton met later Thursday with Netanyahu at a New York hotel where she was expected to hear the alternative argument for possible military action.

Their face-to-face occurred just hours after the Israeli presented his case to the world just why a nuclear-armed Iran would be a danger to many countries.

Casting the battle as one between modernity and the "medieval forces of radical Islam," Netanyahu said deterrence would not work against Iran as it had with the Soviet Union.

"Deterrence worked with the Soviets, because every time the Soviets faced a choice between their ideology and their survival, they chose survival," he said. But "militant jihadists behave very differently from secular Marxists. There were no Soviet suicide bombers. Yet Iran produces hordes of them."

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