Netanyahu to Hagel: Iran missile report shows insincerity

(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that a report suggesting Iran is pursuing development of ballistic missiles is evidence that the country is insincere in its participation in nuclear negotiations.

“I wasn’t surprised and I’m sure you weren’t surprised by the U.N. report,” Netanyahu said Friday during a joint press briefing in Jerusalem with Hagel.

The report by the U.N. Panel of Experts, revealed Friday by Reuters, said Iran’s overall attempts to illicitly procure materials for its banned nuclear and missile program appear to have slowed down as it pursues negotiations with world powers that Iran hopes will bring an end to sanctions.

However, apart from holding off on test-firing one type of rocket, the report said, Iran shows no sign of putting the brakes on the expansion of its missile program.

“Iran is continuing development of its ballistic missile and space programs,” the experts said, according to Reuters. “A new missile launch site 40 km (25 miles) from the city of Shahrud was identified in August 2013. A larger launch complex is assessed to be close to completion at the Imam Khomeini Space Center at Semnan for ballistic missiles and satellite launch vehicles.”

Iran and six world powers including the Unites States are engaged in talks over Iran’s nuclear program, which world powers are demanding be subject to supervision to ensure no nuclear weapons are being produced.

The latest round of talks ended Friday in Vienna. The sides are currently focused on the degree of uranium enrichment Iran would maintain as part of an agreement. Israel is opposed to any enrichment capacity. President Obama and other U.S. officials have said low levels of enrichment likely will continue.

“I think as the talks with Iran continue one thing must guide the international community, and that is we must not let the Ayatollahs win,” Netanyahu told Hagel during their news conference. “We must not let the foremost terrorist state of our time, Iran, develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”

Hagel replied with assurances that the United States was committed to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. “I want to assure you, Prime Minister and the people of Israel, of the United States’ continued commitment to ensuring Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, as President Obama has said, and that America will do what we must to live up to that commitment,” he said.

Iran has said its nuclear program is peaceful.

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