Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Netanyahu calls for tougher sanctions now on Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday the time had come for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. "I believe that now is the time to start harsh sanctions against Iran -- if not now then when? These harsh sanctions can be effective," Netanyahu was quoted by a parliamentary official as telling a legislative committee.

"I believe that the international community can act effectively," he said, according to the official, who briefed reporters on Netanyahu's remarks to parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

"The Iranian regime is weak, the Iranian people would not rally around the regime if they felt for the first time that there was a danger to their regime -- and this would be a new situation," Netanyahu said.

His comments appeared to signal -- amid wide speculation that Israel could opt to attack Iranian nuclear facilities -- that it had not given up on international diplomacy to curb Tehran's atomic ambitions.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It has agreed to start talks on October 1 with world powers on the dispute. Israel is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who came to office pledging a policy of engagement toward Iran, has suggested it may face harsher international sanctions if it does not accept good-faith talks by the end of September.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Richard Williams)

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