Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 19, 2013
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 19, 2013 © Jack Guez - AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on November 19, 2013
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Steve Weizman, AFP
Last updated: November 20, 2013

Netanyahu takes Iran nuclear campaign to Kremlin

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday insisted on the need for a "real" solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Putin said that the two men discussed the Iranian nuclear standoff "in detail" at Kremlin talks which overran by several hours. But the Israeli premier was insistent that only the strongest of diplomatic solutions was acceptable for his country.

Netanyahu's visit to Moscow was seen as a last-minute bid to influence an emerging nuclear deal with Iran strongly opposed by the Jewish state and being discussed by world powers and Iranian diplomats in Geneva.

"We want a peaceful solution, a diplomatic solution, everybody prefers that to any other solution...but it needs to be a real solution," said Netanyahu, adding that this would involve Iran halting nuclear work in the same way as Syria was allowing its chemical weapons arsenal to be destroyed.

"I don't imagine that the international community would have accepted an agreement whereby Syria slightly thinned out its stock of chemical materials, most of it stayed in place and the ability to produce such a weapon remained unchanged," he said.

"That is more or less what's on the table in Geneva."

Iran would have to halt uranium enrichment, dismantle centrifuges, have enriched uranium material sent abroad and stop work on its Arak heavy water reactor, he said.

"We think it is possible to get a better agreement but that requires determination," Netanyahu warned. Israel has never ruled out the use of force against the Iranian nuclear drive.

Speaking as the talks got under way in Geneva between Iran and world powers, Putin for his part said he hoped that "in the nearest future a mutually acceptable solution is found" to end the crisis.

"As the consultations in Geneva showed, there is a possibility this can be done. I hope that the talks that resumed today in Geneva bring results," Putin said.

Russia is a member of the P5+1 group -- alongside the United States, China, France, Britain and Germany -- which has been struggling to reach a deal to freeze or curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for some relief from international sanctions.

Israel is staunchly opposed to the mooted interim agreement, insisting it will give Iran vital sanctions relief while failing to halt Tehran's alleged march towards a "breakout" nuclear weapons capability.

Israel and the West suspect the nuclear programme is aimed at developing a weapons capability but Tehran insists is entirely peaceful.

The last round of talks with Iran that ended on November 10 came tantalisingly close to a framework agreement that supporters say would bolster Iran's new president, a reputed moderate, and buy time for negotiating a comprehensive deal.

Israel's deputy foreign minister, Zeev Elkin, said his country did not expect a radical change in Moscow's stance.

"Russia is not about to espouse the Israeli position," he told public radio ahead of taking off to Russia with Netanyahu. "But any small budge could influence the whole process."

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has refused to rule out military action to halt Iran's nuclear drive. Washington has also insisted it will strike if necessary to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu's opposition to the nuclear deal and his public spat with US Secretary of State John Kerry over the matter have sparked warnings that it could turn into a diplomatic embarrassment for Israel.

On Thursday, Netanyahu will address members of the Russian Jewish community in Moscow on the second day of his visit.

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