NEW YORK - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
warned Thursday that Iran will have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by next summer and urged the world to draw a clear "red line" to stop it in its tracks.
Flashing a diagram showing the progress Iran has made, he said it was getting "late, very late" to stop Iran.
"Red lines don't lead to war, red lines prevent war," he said. "Nothing could imperil the world more than a nuclear-armed Iran."
Netanyahu said Iran had completed the first stage of uranium enrichment.
|Netanyahu's UN General Assembly address|
"Iran is 70% of the way there and ... well into the second stage. By next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage," Netanyahu said. "From there it is only a few more weeks before they have enriched enough for a bomb."
Netanyahu has repeatedly argued that time is running out to stop the Islamic Republic from becoming a nuclear power and the threat of force must be seriously considered.
"I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down – and it will give more time for sanctions and diplomacy," the Israeli prime minister said.
The prime minister also drew a parallel between the Iranian threat and the Holocaust. “Those who opposed that fanaticism waited too long to act,” said Netanyahu, adding that the defeat of Germany came years later “at a terrific cost."
Israeli leaders have issued a series of warnings in recent weeks suggesting that if Iran's uranium enrichment program continues it may soon stage a unilateral military strike, flouting even American wishes.
Graphic illustration. Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)
The Obama administration has urgently sought to hold off Israeli military action, which would likely result in the US being pulled into a conflict and cause region-wide mayhem on the eve of American elections.
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.
"Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine Iranian aggression with nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said.
In his speech, Netanyahu said he was confident Israel and the United States could chart a way forward on how to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue and I am confident that we can chart a path forward together," the prime minister told the multinational audience.
At the beginning of his address, the prime minister dismissed claims by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,
who said in his own UNGA speech that Israel has no roots in the Middle East. Netanyahu further stated he wants to see Judaism, Christianity and Islam coexist in peace, but asserted that “the medieval forces of radical Islam” are preventing that from taking place.
“We want to see the three great religions that sprang forth from our region – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – coexist in peace and in mutual respect. Yet, the medieval forces of radical Islam, whom you just saw storming the American embassies throughout the Middle East. Well, they oppose this,” he said.
“They are bent on world conquest. They want to destroy Israel, Europe, America. They want to extinguish freedom. They want to end the modern world,” he added. “(…) They want to drag humanity back to an age of unquestioning dogma, unrelenting conflict. I’m sure of one thing: Ultimately, they will fail. Ultimately, light will penetrate the darkness."
Clear red line. PM at UN (Photos: AP, AFP)
and Iran's Revolutionary Guards as emissaries of this extremist Islamic movement, he said that "despite their differences, they’re all rooted in the same bitter soil of intolerance.”
Earlier in the evening, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
addressed the assembly, and announced he has opened talks on a new bid for international recognition of a Paletinian state.
Abbas said in his speech that "intensive consultations with the various regional organizations and the state members" were underway. He also used his speech to denounce Israel for a variety of grievances, including settler attacks and land policies, and to accuse Israel of unermining the basis for a two-state solution.
Netanyahu on Thursday (Photo: Shahar Azran)
Netanyahu, in turn, said, “We won’t solve our conflict with libelous speeches at the United Nations."
Earlier still, an Israeli official said Netanyahu is expected to set out a "clear red line"
for Iran's disputed nuclear drive, adding that the plan could be pursued together with the United States.
Netanyahu faced the world body a day after US President Barack Obama
disappointed some Israelis by imposing no ultimatum to the Iranians in his own address, though he did warn that time for diplomacy with Tehran "is not unlimited".
Netanyahu's public calls for a US ultimatum have deepened acrimony with Obama, a Democrat accused by his Republican rivals of being soft on the Jewish state's security. That has stirred American accusations of Israeli meddling in the November presidential elections – something denied by Netanyahu.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman,
who is also visiting New York, after said that Obama's declaration that the US won't tolerate a nuclear Iran "speaks for itself… There is no reason not to believe the president of the United States."
Addressing Netanyahu's speech, Lieberman said: "When you talk about red lines it usually isn't very clear to the general public. I think the illustration was meant for the public, not leaders."
Earlier in the day, President Shimon Peres commented on Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN on Wednesday and said: "The speech was shameful and attests to his deep ignorance of history – I intend to pass a letter to the UN secretary General with a history lesson for Ahmadinejad."
AP and Reuters contributed to the report