Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 17, 2013
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 17, 2013. © Ammar Awad - Pool/AFP
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on September 17, 2013
AFP
Last updated: September 29, 2013

Netanyahu heads to US to challenge Iranian charm blitz

Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu left for New York early Sunday in a bid to challenge perceptions that Iran under its new president poses less of a nuclear threat than before.

Israel's prime minister will tell Washington that Iran's nuclear programme must be dismantled and not merely supervised when he visits the White House on Monday, Israeli media reported.

Benjamin Netanyahu will tell US President Barack Obama that Israel will abandon the diplomatic path on Iran's nuclear programme if it is not completely dismantled, according to the diplomatic correspondent of Israel's Channel One television network.

The implication was that Israel may be willing to take unilateral military action against Iran, the reporter said.

The reporter cited sources close to Netanyahu, who headed to New York Sunday vowing to counter the "sweet talk" of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has said he wants to resolve the decade-long nuclear stand-off.

Both Israel and the United States have refused to rule out military action to halt Iran's nuclear drive, which they say is aimed at developing atomic weapons, charges adamantly denied by Tehran.

Rouhani's expressed desire for a rapprochement with Washington, and his historic phone call with Obama last week, have raised concerns in Israel that such gestures could blunt international efforts to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Netanyahu has long portrayed Rouhani as a "wolf in sheep's clothing", insisting that Iran is still a major threat to the Jewish state.

A recent poll found that most Israelis agree, with 78 percent believing Rouhani is not sincere about reaching a deal on the nuclear programme.

After meeting Obama, Netanyahu is due to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the same forum where last year he used a cartoon bomb as a prop to underline how close he believed Iran was to being able to build a nuclear weapon.

Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power, remains adamant that Iran is bent on developing a weapons capability under the cover of its civilian nuclear programme, something it regards as a threat to its existence.

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