Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) sits next to Minister Gilad Erdan (L), as he chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 30, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) sits next to Minister Gilad Erdan (L), as he chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 30, 2013 © Menahem Kahana - Pool/AFP/File
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) sits next to Minister Gilad Erdan (L), as he chairs a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 30, 2013
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AFP
Last updated: November 14, 2013

Israel minister defends campaign against Iran deal

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Israeli Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan on Thursday slammed US Secretary of State John Kerry for criticising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intensive campaigning against an emerging nuclear deal with Iran.

"I was astounded to hear John Kerry's remarks about why the prime minister is criticising the agreement being formulated in Geneva without waiting for it to be signed," Erdan told an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv.

"When we're dealing with a country that wants to destroy Israel and the conditions that will enable it to carry out its wishes, what do they expect from the Israeli prime minister? Not to cry out when they're holding the knife, but only when it's at our throat?" he asked.

Netanyahu has in the past week repeatedly warned world powers against striking a "bad and dangerous" deal with Iran over its nuclear programme, appealing to world leaders as well as the people of Israel and the United States.

On Wednesday, he warned that a "bad deal" could result in war.

Kerry had on Monday rejected Netanyahu's criticism of the looming deal, saying Washington has the interests of key ally Israel at heart and that he shares Netanyahu's "deep concerns".

"But I believe the prime minister needs to recognise that no agreement has been reached about the endgame here that's the subject of the negotiations," he said.

Erdan's office quoted him as saying it was only thanks to the "discussion on the terms being discussed in Geneva" that "we received an additional delay of several days and perhaps even an improvement in the terms of the agreement".

The so-called P5+1 countries -- UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany -- have contemplated offering relief to Iran on some economic sanctions in exchange for nuclear concessions.

Kerry on Thursday revealed for the first time that Washington is offering to free up "a tiny portion" of some $45 billion (33 billion euros) in Iranian assets frozen in bank accounts around the world.

But speaking to MSNBC, he insisted: "The core sanctions regime does not really get eased."

Iran and world powers met over the weekend and were close to reaching a deal. They are planning to meet again on November 20 for further negotiations.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear power, views a nuclear Iran as an existential threat and has said it will not be "bound" by any world deal with Tehran, refusing to rule out the threat of military action to halt it.

Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Tehran denies.

A statement from Netanyahu's office on Thursday ahead of a Sunday visit by French President Francois Hollande underlined that "the major powers, including France, are discussing ways to halt the Iranian military nuclear programme".

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