Netanyahu: Iranian President 'Wolf In Sheep's Clothing'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging the United Nations to keep up the pressure on Iran and not be fooled by the soothing talk of the new Iranian president — whom Netanyahu describes as a wolf in sheep's clothing. The Israeli leader says there must be pressure for diplomacy to work and he told the U.N. General Assembly that Israel will stand alone, if necessary, to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.

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In New York today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered scathing words about the new Iranian president. In his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly, he described the Iranian president as a wolf in sheep's clothing who's not to be trusted. Netanyahu said if necessary, Israel will stand alone to keep Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: A week after Iran's president, Hasan Rouhani, addressed the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu wrapped up the high-level debate with words of warning about Rouhani's past as a nuclear negotiator.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: He masterminded the strategy which enabled Iran to advance its nuclear weapons program behind a smokescreen of diplomatic engagement and very soothing rhetoric.

KELEMEN: Rouhani says Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, and he wants to clear up international concerns about it quickly. Netanyahu says negotiators should insist that Iran cease all uranium enrichment, dismantle underground facilities and centrifuges, and stop work at a heavy water reactor where he says Iran is working on another route to the bomb, a plutonium path.

NETANYAHU: Since Rouhani's election - and I stress this - this vast and feverish effort has continued unabated.

KELEMEN: An Iranian diplomat, Khodadad Seifi, rejected the Israeli prime minister's speech, accusing Netanyahu of saber rattling.

KHODADAD SEIFI: He tried to mislead this august body about the Iranian nuclear program, but unlike last year, without cartoon drawings.

KELEMEN: At last year's U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu held up a cartoonish picture of a bomb and drew a red line through it. He now says Iran is positioning itself to race across that line whenever it chooses. And he says diplomacy will only work if the international community keeps Iran on the ropes. The diplomat leading the negotiations with Iran, the European Union's Catherine Ashton, says Netanyahu is not alone in his concerns.

CATHERINE ASHTON: Part of being levelheaded, clear-eyed is to say, OK, if this is real, let's make it real. And let's make sure that everybody can be confident in what we're actually doing.

KELEMEN: She told a Washington think thank yesterday that there's a lot of technical work ahead, and she's hopeful the U.S. and other major powers will create a good atmosphere for diplomacy ahead of negotiations in Geneva later this month. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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