Channel NewsAsia

Leaving Iran with nuclear enrichment would be "catastrophic": Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that any nuclear deal leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium would be "catastrophic."

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that any nuclear deal leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium would be "catastrophic."

"It would be a disaster for the United States and for everyone else," Netanyahu said as a deadline loomed for an agreement on Iran's disputed nuclear program between the West and the Islamic Republic.

Netanyahu's comments in an interview with Fox News Sunday came as foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain and Germany gathered in Vienna to face off with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.

A six-month interim deal with Iran expires on July 20 and US Secretary of State John Kerry said "significant gaps" remain before a final agreement can be reached.

Netanyahu warned that "a bad deal is actually worse than no deal", defining that as one in which Iran would keep enriched nuclear material and the capability to further enrich uranium in return for monitoring by international inspectors.

"I certainly hope that doesn't happen. I think it would be a catastrophic development, because you know the Middle East is in turmoil, everything is topsy-turvy, the worst militants, Shiites and Sunni radicals are vying with each other who will be the king of the Islamist hill," he said.

"If any one of these sides get their hands on nuclear weapons, all bets are off."

Netanyahu later dismissed as a "joke" Zarif's assurance that Iran is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Zarif told NBC's Meet the Press he would commit "to everything and anything that would provide credible assurances for the international community that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, because we are not."

"I think it's comical," Netanyahu said later on CBS' Face the Nation.

"Iran has invested an untold fortune, certainly over US$100 billion, probably close to US$200 billion in building ICBMs, which are only used for nuclear weapons, and building underground nuclear facilities for nuclear weapons," he said.

He also insisted that uranium enrichment was "only for nuclear weapons," arguing that it would not be needed for a civilian nuclear program.

"I think that the capability to make these weapons is what's at issue right now, that's what's being negotiated as we speak in Vienna," he said. "And I think the crucial thing is not to trust Iran."

China meanwhile urged Iran and world powers to "to show flexibility" in the talks.

"We urge all parties to show flexibility and political will to reach a comprehensive agreement," Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong told reporters in the Austrian capital.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna