Hollande backs Israel on Iran nuclear threat
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A day after Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to take a tough stance on Iran, French President François Hollande spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister by phone and promised French support.
French President François Hollande on Friday assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of France’s firm support with regard to Iran and its nuclear programme.
The Elysée said the two men had spoken on the phone and that Hollande underlined that France hoped the moderate line taken by the new Iranian President, Hassan Rohani, would translate "into actions", AFP reported.
On Thursday, Netanyahu told France 24 that France must remain strong against Iran to prevent the country from reaching nuclear weapons capability.
France "should be tough on Iran, with or without Rohani’s smiles", Netanyahu told FRANCE 24 Jerusalem correspondent Gallagher Fenwick.
"What Iran is putting forward with this smile campaign is an old position… they need the enrichment, the centrifuges and the heavy water plutonium reactor for one thing - to produce nuclear weapons, and we don’t want to give them that."
Netanyahu suggested Rohani’s recent movements towards détente with the West were insincere. “If they really wanted to dismantle their nuclear weapons programme, they’d come out with it,” he said.
Netanyahu likened the softening of Iran’s diplomacy to the trustworthiness of a hypothetical offer by Syrian leader Bashar al Assad to get rid of 20 percent of his country’s chemical weapons.
“Would you accept that? Would anyone accept that?” he asked, “Of course not!”
“You don’t dismantle 20 percent, you dismantle 100 percent. This is not my position alone. This was the French position, the EU’s position,” he said.
Netanyahu told FRANCE 24 he does not fear that his comments will put Israel in a difficult situation.
“I don’t have any problem telling the truth even if it’s not popular. It so happens that I’m not isolated - Israel is not isolated,” he said.
“Just about every country in the Arab world agrees with our position; some say so openly, some say that less openly. There’s one country who doesn’t agree with us: Syria’s Assad, of course, because he supports Iran’s regime that continues to help him in the mass murder of women and children.”
Netanyahu for now also ruled out the possibility of beginning dialogue with Rohani. "Call him an honest deceiver…You don’t normally call somebody who openly calls for your annihilation."
When asked whether Israel would strike Iran on its own, without the help of ally the United States, the Israeli Prime Minister refused to discuss his country’s military options.
"The Americans have great capacities, certainly greater than anyone else, but I wouldn’t cut short Israel’s capacities either."
(FRANCE 24 with wires)