For Netanyahu, North Korea nuclear test offers lesson on Iran

JERUSALEM Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:27am EST

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) addresses a meeting of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) addresses a meeting of the Jewish Agency's Board of Governors in Jerusalem February 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed on Monday to North Korea's latest nuclear test as proof the world must keep up pressure on Iran to prevent it acquiring atomic weapons.

In a speech to a gathering of international Jewish leaders, Netanyahu said sanctions alone could not stop Iran developing a nuclear bomb, and held out the prospect of military action as a last resort.

"Have sanctions, tough sanctions, stopped North Korea? No. And the fact that they produced a nuclear explosion reverberates everywhere in the Middle East, and especially in Iran," he said.

"They have to be coupled with a robust, credible military threat," Netanyahu said, repeating a call he has made in previous speeches on the Iranian issue.

If all that fails to deter Iran, "then it will have to be stopped another way", he said, alluding to military action.

The United States and some of its Western allies share Israel's suspicion that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapon capability under the guise of a civilian atomic energy program.

Despite four rounds of United Nations sanctions, Iran has defied international demands to scale back uranium enrichment.

Its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday his country did not want to acquire nuclear weapons but that, if it did, no world power could prevent it from obtaining them, according to Iranian media.

North Korea carried out a nuclear test last week, its third in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Israel said the international community must make clear to North Korea that such activities cannot be tolerated.

Referring to Iran, Netanyahu said: "Their development of nuclear weapons will spark a nuclear arms race. It will make the Middle East a nuclear tinderbox. It will change the world."

Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly in September that Iran could produce enough highly enriched material by summer 2013 to make a single atomic bomb.

Last week he said new centrifuges Iran was installing for uranium enrichment could cut by a third the time needed to create a nuclear bomb.

Diplomats believe, however, that Iran may have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel, thereby slowing a growth in stockpiles that could be used to make weapons.

In his speech on Monday, Netanyahu reiterated that Iran would top the agenda next month when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Israel. Obama will also visit the occupied West Bank and Jordan during the trip.

Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power. It has never confirmed or denied this.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (4)
MetalHead8 wrote:
he actually has a point

Feb 19, 2013 10:01am EST  --  Report as abuse
Eric93 wrote:
Total BS. Iran hasn’t threatened anybody, as I recall. North Korea has.

Feb 19, 2013 12:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
reality-again wrote:
@Eric93

FYI, over the years, Iran’s leaders and state media have called many times for the destruction of the state of Israel, and the official position of the Iranian regime is that (quote): “There is no place for the state of Israel in the Middle East”.
Iran has threatened to attack Israel as well as US military facilities in the Middle East as a “preventive measure”, in case Iran should feel that Israel and/or the US are about to attack.
Furthermore, the Iranian Republican Guard, an official Iranian military, political and economic organization, has carried multiple attacks by proxy on Israeli, Jewish and US targets in the Middle East and worldwide.
Those attacks and the fact that this organization has been actively supporting terror organizations worldwide made the US officially label it a Terror Organization.

Feb 19, 2013 5:07pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.