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Netanyahu Says Iran Is Accelerating Its Nuclear Program

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the international community to set a clear “red line” on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work. Photographer: Uriel Sinai/AFP via Getty Images

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran is accelerating efforts to enrich uranium and called for tougher international sanctions to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu, speaking to a delegation of American-Jewish organizational heads in Jerusalem, recalled the cartoon of a bomb he displayed last year at the United Nations and said Iran needs to be convinced it faces a credible military threat.

“I drew a red line” on the bomb at the UN, Netanyahu said. The Iranians “haven’t crossed that line, but what they are doing is shortening the time it takes to get there.”

The White House announced last week that President Barack Obama would make his first visit in office to Israel this spring after a new government is formed. Netanyahu said he expects to discuss the Iranian nuclear issue with Obama, as well as the civil conflict in Syria and efforts to renew peace talks with the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is in the process of forming the next government after his Likud-Beitenu ticket won the largest number of parliamentary seats in Jan. 22 elections. His choice of partners may influence policy on the economy, Iran and settlement construction in the West Bank.

Iran says its uranium-enrichment and other nuclear activities are for civil energy production and medical research. Israel, the U.S. and European powers say Iran is clandestinely seeking the technology to produce a nuclear weapon.

‘Red Line’

Netanyahu has urged the international community to set a clear “red line” on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear work. The Israeli leader has said that 2013 will be the decisive year in stopping Iran’s nuclear drive, and that “all options are on the table,” including a military strike. Obama has called for more time to be given to economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts to change Iran’s policy.

Netanyahu again called on Palestinians today to resume peace talks, which broke down in September 2010 after Netanyahu refused to extend a 10-month building freeze in West Bank Jewish settlements. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he wouldn’t negotiate unless Israel stops its construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Netanyahu has said he would support a two-state solution if Palestinians agree to remain demilitarized, renounce the right of return, formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state and allow Israel to keep full control of Jerusalem and major settlements.

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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