Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Iran is continuing a "vast and feverish" effort to acquire nuclear arms and that his country is ready to stand alone in defending itself against Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
Mr. Netanyahu made the comments in a speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly as he pressed his concerns about Iran's controversial nuclear program. His comments triggered a rebuttal from Iran's U.N. envoy who called Mr. Netanyahu's speech "inflammatory."
The Israeli leader said the only way to peacefully stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons is to combine tough sanctions with a credible military threat.
He urged the international community not to let up the pressure on Iran and accused President Hassan Rouhani of masterminding a strategy to advance Iran's nuclear weapons program, calling him "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
The Israeli leader said all Iranian presidents serve the same "unforgiving regime" where the supreme leader dictates.
Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful. But Mr. Netanyahu said its efforts to acquire a nuclear arsenal have continued since Mr. Rouhani's election.
Iran's deputy U.N. ambassador responded in comments to the General Assembly, saying "no one can dictate to Iran what to do."
Khodadad Seifi said Israel is the only non-party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the only country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons.
Israel has not acknowledged it has such arms.
In his speech, Mr. Netanyahu repeated statements made earlier that Iran should face tougher sanctions if it continues to advance its nuclear work while negotiating with the West.
He also stressed that Iran must give up any military aspect of its nuclear program -- which Iran has denied it is pursuing.
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mr. Rouhani conducted the highest-level contact between the countries in more than three decades. Their telephone call fueled hopes for a resolution of Iran's decade-old nuclear standoff with the West.
The U.S. and many of its allies have helped impose several rounds of sanctions that have battered Iran's economy.
Mr. Netanyahu is deeply concerned about eased tensions between Iran and the international community, saying Tehran is using talks to try to lessen the crippling sanctions and to buy more time to build a nuclear weapon.