Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Photo by Reuters
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the leaders of Britain and France to urge them not to ease sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, ahead of talks between Iran and world powers.

Israeli officials said on Saturday that Netanyahu phoned British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande over the weekend to tell them sanctions were close to achieving their goal – dismantling of the Iranian nuclear program.

"Until Iran dismantles its military nuclear program, sanctions must not be eased - on the contrary. Only the pressure brought Iran to this point, and only the continuation of pressure and its strengthening can bring them to dismantle their nuclear program," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.

The Elysee Palace issued a statement that France would remain tough on Iran and would not allow sanctions to be lifted without Iranian steps in exchange.

Netanyahu made the phone calls after granting interviews to six media outlets in France, Britain and Germany, after which he called The New York Times’ Israel correspondent, Jodi Rudoren, to his office.

Rudoren’s subsequent article depicted Netanyahu as, on the one hand, “seeming frozen in the past amid a shifting geopolitical landscape” and “increasingly alone abroad and at home,” but, on the other hand, “determined and focused, the atmosphere in his office one of urgency, not panic.”

Last week, Netanyahu met U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington and made a speech at the UN General Assembly in which he said Israel was ready to stand alone to deny Iran nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani says his country's nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes and since his June election victory has been trying to ease friction with the West in an attempt to win relief from international sanctions.

Western diplomats have played down any suggestion Iran's new openness will result in an immediate loosening of sanctions.

But they are also hoping that talks on October 15-16 between six world powers - including Britain and France - and Iran will deliver an opportunity to make progress on ending the decade-long dispute.