JERUSALEM — Israel is drawing a parallel between North Korea and Iran, saying nuclear proliferation by rogue states could turn the Middle East into a “tinderbox.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says North Korea’s nuclear test last week is a warning to the international community that tougher action is needed to stop Iran from acquiring the atom bomb.
“Have sanctions, tough sanctions, stopped North Korea? No. And the fact that they produced a nuclear explosion reverberates everywhere in the Middle East, and especially in Iran. They say 'Where’s the world, where’s the international community, where’s the tough response?' ”
Both Iran and North Korea are under stiff Western sanctions aimed at curbing their nuclear programs. But Netanyahu told Jewish leaders in Jerusalem that Iran will remain defiant unless more is done.
“Sanctions alone will not stop the nuclear program of Iran. They have to be coupled with a robust, credible, military threat.”
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but Israel and the West believe the Islamic Republic is building atomic weapons that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said over the weekend that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, but if it wanted to, no country could stop it from doing so.
The U.S. and some other countries are due to meet Iranian officials in Kazakhstan later this month to discuss Tehran's nuclear program. The U.N. has placed sanctions on Iran.
Netanyahu has warned that if sanctions and talks fail, Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own.
“The world has to decide whether it allows this terror regime that breaks all norms to have access to atomic bombs.”
The prime minister said Iran will top the agenda when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Israel next month.