Iran shrugs off Netanyahu bid to block nuclear deal

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni attend a joint press conference in Tehran on February 28, 2015.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni attend a joint press conference in Tehran on February 28, 2015.

Tehran (AFP) – Iran on Saturday shrugged off a bid by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abort a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers by lobbying opposition in a speech to the US Congress.

“I believe this effort is fruitless and it should not be an impediment to an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a joint press conference with his visiting Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni.

“It is unfortunate that there is a group which sees its interests in tension and crisis.”

Netanyahu’s bid was “an attempt to utilise a fabricated crisis to cover up realities in the region, including occupation, the suppression of Palestinians and the violation of their rights”, he said.

“It is an on old policy to intimidate and spread lies … in order to prevent peace in the region,” said Zarif.

Netanyahu will travel next week to Washington to denounce a possible agreement in the Iranian nuclear talks, which he considers contrary to the interests of Israel.

The Israeli leader said Wednesday that his speech before Congress was part of his “duty” to protect the Jewish state’s security.

“Under the agreement that is being prepared, we have reason to worry … if the world powers have apparently found common ground with Iran,” he said.

The so-called P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany are trying to strike an accord that would prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb.

The next round of talks is to start next week in Switzerland.

In return, the West would ease punishing sanctions imposed on Tehran over its nuclear programme, which Iran insists is purely civilian.

A March 31 deadline for a political framework for the deal is looming with negotiators saying they will aim to pin down the final technical details by June 30.

Zarif said that Iranian and US delegations meeting in Geneva last week had made “significant progress” on technical issues.

“But still differences remain on many other topics, both on nuclear issues and on sanctions … The United States and the West must realise that sanctions are an obstacle to reaching an agreement,” he said.

Italy’s foreign minister, for his part, called for “a solution on the nuclear issue” to allow for “expanded relations” between Tehran and Rome, according to a Persian translation of his remarks.

“Iran’s help will be effective in finding solutions to regional problems, including the fight against the extremism of Daesh,” said Gentiloni, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Jihad jihadist group.

By AFP