BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she agreed with Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s activities in the Middle East were a concern, particularly for Israel’s security.
“We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that,” she said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu.
The Israeli premier, who is on a tour to persuade European countries to follow the US administration of Donald Trump in tearing up a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran, said Tehran has been able to bankroll a growing military presence in countries such as Syria and Yemen because sanctions had been lifted in exchange for its halt in nuclear enrichment activities.
He will travel to Paris on Tuesday to meet with President Emmanuel Macron before coming to Britain on Wednesday for discussions with Theresa May.
“The Times” newspaper on Monday reported that Israel had shared secret files with European security services showing Iran’s determination to build an atomic bomb.
Among the documents seized by Israel from a Tehran warehouse in January, is a memorandum that formally hands responsibility for the production of weapons-grade enriched uranium to the Iranian defense ministry.
The document, seen by The Times was sent from the Iranian atomic energy authority to the defense ministry around 2001, authorizes the military to take over the task of enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) by centrifuges from three percent to more than 90 percent.
Netanyahu is expected to use the finds from the files to make the case to May on Thursday that the deal with Tehran has been based on a false pledge from Iran that it never pursued a nuclear weapons program.
Iran wants to “basically conduct a religious campaign in largely Sunni Syria but try to convert Sunnis,” he said at Monday’s joint press conference with Merkel.
“This will inflame another religious war — this time a religious war inside Syria and the consequences will be many, many more refugees and you know where exactly they will come,” he said.
Iran’s activities across the Middle East threaten to drive another wave of refugees to Europe, Netanyahu said after Monday’s talks with Merkel.
Merkel also said that talks and the nuclear agreement, torn up by the US, offered ways of thwarting Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.
“We support Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran at all times,” she said.
Merkel defended the nuclear accord as ensuring “at least for a certain time, that Iran’s activities are under control” noting that Tehran had been “on the brink of having a nuclear weapon” before the deal was signed.
But she acknowledged that a supplementary deal with Tehran covering its ballistic missile program as well as its interventions in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen was needed.
“But we believe that this can be achieved with tough negotiations,” she said.
Asked about Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei comments on Twitter Sunday calling Iran a “malignant cancerous tumour”, Merkel said Germany and its partners had “repeatedly and with great clarity told Iran that we will stand up for Israel’s right to security.”
Western powers view Iran’s involvement in its neighbors affairs as destabilizing for the region while Israel sees it as a direct threat to its existence.