ROME (AP) — Israel's prime minister said Wednesday that the world should not accept what he called a "partial deal" to curb Iran's nuclear program — just as it is not allowing the Syrian government to keep any of its chemical weapons stockpile.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told America's chief diplomat that ongoing negotiations with Iran should insist that Tehran end all enrichment on uranium, get rid of any fissile material and close water plants and underground bunkers that he said are only necessary to build a nuclear bomb.
"I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal," Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the start of what was expected to be a daylong private meeting in Rome.
"You wisely insisted there wouldn't be a partial deal with Syria," Netanyahu said. "You were right. If (Syrian President Bashar) Assad had said, 'I'd like to keep 20 percent, 50 percent, or 80 percent of my chemical weapons capability,' you would have refused — and correctly so."
Still, Netanyahu predicted that "we're very close" to striking a deal with Iran. "And I agree with you that the goal is to get it peacefully," he said.
Israel is nervously watching the renewed nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers. Netanyahu has long demanded that the U.S. not ease any of its harsh economic sanctions against Tehran until the Islamic republic dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
Kerry maintained that the U.S. would continue to insist that Iran prove to the world that its nuclear program is peaceful, as Tehran says. But the negotiations, which began again this month after a six-month lull, have come nowhere near demanding the level of tough restrictions on Iran as Israel wants.
"No deal is better than a bad deal," Kerry said. "But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone, and we are looking for an opportunity to be able to that."
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