Jerusalem, Jan. 19 – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged European leaders to impose the toughest sanctions on Iran to prevent the Islamic Republic from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear arms in Iran are a threat to Israel, the region and the world,” Netanyahu said during an official trip to Holland on Wednesday. “Sanctions should be applied to Iran’s central bank and its oil exports – and they should be applied now.”
"Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons, period," added Netanyahu.
European governments are set to vote next week on imposing an embargo on Iranian oil purchases. Oil sales are Iran’s largest source of revenue and have been used to finance its nuclear development program. The embargo would be in addition to four rounds of economic sanctions already imposed by the United Nations and additional trade sanctions recently approved by the United States.
Meanwhile, American Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said Thursday that bilateral coordination between Israel and the U.S. on the Iran issue was extremely tight. He said both countries were "focused on the same goal" of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and that "all other options" besides sanctions were "still available" for the two allies.
Iran has repeatedly claimed its nuclear development program is for peaceful purposes, but refuses to allow international inspections of all nuclear facilities. Last November the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a damning report indicating concerted Iranian efforts to militarize its nuclear program.
Also in Europe, Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told a gathering of NATO military leaders that unrest and instability from the Arab Spring meant that large numbers of advanced weapons were unsecured.
Gantz lauded NATO’s decision to implement a ballistic missile defense shield, saying it reflected the global danger from non-conventional weapons.
At the same time, Gantz warned that missile defense was the last line of defense only.
“The initiation must begin far earlier by preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems,” he said.