Iran accuses Israel of damaging nuclear talks

Foreign minister says frustrated Israel wants to scupper nuclear negotiations that began earlier this week in Geneva.

Netanyahu has said that any easing of economic sanctions on Iran would be an "historic mistake" [Reuters]

Iran’s foreign minister on Friday accused Israel of trying to undermine what he described as progress in Tehran’s nuclear talks with world powers.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif posted on his Facebook page that “there is a high possibility the talks would be disturbed through various efforts” on the part of Israel. He said these efforts reflect Israel’s “frustration and warmongering.”

Zarif did not elaborate, but he was likely referring to Israeli appeals to the international community to maintain economic sanctions on Tehran.

The negotiations, which ended in Geneva on an upbeat note this week, are meant to reduce fears that Tehran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iran denies that it is pursuing a bomb, insisting its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, senior officials have pledged to meet international concerns in exchange for an easing of crippling sanctions.

‘A historic mistake’

Ahead of the Geneva talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran was merely trying to buy time and trick the world into dropping tough sanctions without making any significant concessions.

“Iran is willing to give a little and get a lot, if not everything,” Netanyahu said. “It would be a historic mistake to lift the pressure now, just before the sanctions reach their goal.”

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned against unguarded optimism over the talks, saying “it’s too early to draw conclusions” and that any gestures toward Iran should be “prudent.”

The comments by Fabius to French legislators on Thursday contrast with more optimistic comments from some other participants at the talks in Geneva.

In Tehran, Ayatollah Ahmad Emami Kashani, the leader of Friday prayers, told worshippers that Israel has been trying to portray Islam as an “uncivilized and cruel” religion. He also reiterated denials that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons.

“Iran is not disturbing the security [of the world] at all,” he said. “We consider nuclear weapons to be forbidden.”

In 2005, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, banned nuclear weapons in a religious decree.