UPDATE 1-Israel urges maintaining Iran sanctions despite Geneva proposals

Wed Oct 16, 2013 6:37pm EDT

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JERUSALEM Oct 16 (Reuters) - Israel on Wednesday urged Western powers not to give up economic sanctions on Iran until Tehran proves it is dismantling its nuclear program that the United States and its allies believe is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

The Israeli comments came after Western diplomats said Iran hinted during two days of nuclear negotiations in Geneva that it was ready to scale back sensitive atomic activities to secure relief from the crippling sanctions.

"Iran should be tested by its actions, not its proposals," a senior Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in a message sent from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

The Israeli official added, "Until substantive steps are carried out that prove that Iran is dismantling its military nuclear programme, the international community must continue with its sanctions against it (Iran)."

The United States called the talks the most serious and candid to date, though a senior U.S. official said there had been no apparent narrowing of differences between Tehran and the six nations in the negotiations over its nuclear programme.

Follow-up talks have been scheduled for Nov. 7-8.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear programme to try to develop the capability to produce weapons. Iran says the programme is for peaceful energy purposes only. Hassan Rouhani, Iran's new president, told the U.N. General Assembly last month that nuclear weapons "have no place in Iran's security and defence doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions."

Israel insists Iran must be forced to give up its enrichment of uranium, which the Jewish state sees as a risk that the nuclear programme would be used for weapon development.

Netanyahu has said Israel would not accept Iran becoming a nuclear power and has hinted that his country may resort to military action - and act on its own - to prevent that from coming about.

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