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Israel prepares to lobby against Iran deal
JERUSALEM -- Israel's prime minister on Sunday urged world powers to step up pressure on Iran as they finalize a nuclear deal in the coming months, saying there was time to improve what he said was a flawed framework agreement reached last week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's appearances on American TV news programs Sunday signaled the launch of what is expected to be a lobbying effort to scuttle or reshape a deal he has criticized as "bad" and a threat to Israel's existence.
A document drawn up by experts in Netanyahu's office gives a glimpse of the arguments the Israeli leader is going to raise, targeting vague language in the system of inspections and its failure to address issues beyond the nuclear program.
The framework agreement was announced on Thursday in Lausanne, Switzerland, by U.S.-led world powers and Iran after years of negotiations.
The deal aims to cut into Iran's bomb-making technology while giving Tehran relief from international sanctions. The commitments, if implemented, would pare down Iranian nuclear assets for a decade and restrict others for an additional five years.
Netanyahu has said the deal leaves too much of Iran's suspect nuclear program intact, would give it quick relief from economic sanctions and would create an easy path for the Islamic Republic to gain the ability to produce a bomb. He also says the deal fails to address Iran's support for militant groups across the Middle East.
"I think the alternatives are not either this bad deal or war. I think there's a third alternative. And that is standing firm, ratcheting up the pressure, until you get a better deal," Netanyahu told CNN. "A better deal would roll back Iran's vast nuclear infrastructure and require Iran to stop its aggression in the region, its terror worldwide, and its calls and actions to annihilate the state of Israel."
Netanyahu faces an uphill struggle as he takes aim at a deal negotiated by six global powers -- the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany -- and Iran. After last week's preliminary deal, the sides will try to work out a final agreement by a June 30 deadline.
Netanyahu's criticism has contributed to rising tensions with President Barack Obama. Last month, Netanyahu delivered a speech to Congress against the emerging deal, angering the White House because it had not been coordinated ahead of time. Obama's assurances in recent days that the deal would protect Israeli security have had little effect.
The Israeli analysis of the framework raises 10 questions about alleged shortcomings in the framework. It was obtained from an official who declined to be identified because it has not yet been made public.
According to a U.S. document summarizing last week's deal, Tehran is ready to reduce its number of centrifuges, the machines that can spin uranium gas to levels used in nuclear warheads, and submit to aggressive monitoring and inspections of its nuclear facilities.
But the Israeli analysis claims the system of inspections is not as thorough as proclaimed because it does not explicitly force the Iranians to open their sites "anywhere, anytime."
It also claims the agreement is vague about what happens to Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium, a key ingredient in producing nuclear bombs, or how sanctions might be re-imposed if Iran violates the deal.
While Iran is not supposed to enrich uranium with its advanced centrifuges for 10 years, the deal permits limited "research and development" of the advanced centrifuges, according to the U.S. document. Israeli officials say this means that Iran could immediately put these centrifuges into action after the deal expires or breaks down.
They also want Iran "to come clean" about its past nuclear weapons efforts. Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes, a claim that is widely disputed.
As Netanyahu lobbies against the deal, he is expected to urge the world to take action against Iran's non-nuclear activities as well.
In his TV appearances Sunday, Netanyahu noted Iran's development of ballistic missiles, which are capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and Iran's support for hostile militant groups across the region.
Netanyahu fears that Iran will take advantage of the international community's goodwill and press forward with an illicit weapons program, much the way North Korea did. The reclusive Asian country has managed to develop a weapons capability, despite two decades of on-again off-again talks with the international community and inspections by international experts.
In 2007, North Korea agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor. Within two years, it had halted international inspections and reactivated its nuclear facilities.
"The entire world celebrated the deal with North Korea," Netanyahu told NBC's "Meet the Press." "But it turned out to be a very very bad deal."