October 14, 2013 - 21:08 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - It would be a "historic mistake" to ease pressure on Iran over its nuclear program right now, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to BBC News.
Opening parliament's winter session, Netanyahu said Israel must "keep up the pressure" on Iran, "particularly at this moment". His speech came on the eve of nuclear talks in Geneva between Iran and international negotiators.
Iran's foreign minister said he hoped a "roadmap" could be reached.
"Tomorrow is the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward," Mohammad Javad Zarif posted on his Facebook page. "I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a roadmap to find a path towards resolution."
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi will represent Iran at the talks, holding discussions with representatives of the P5+1 group, made up of Britain, China, France, Russia and the U.S. plus Germany.
These are the first such talks since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office in August.
Netanyahu told Israel's parliamentarians - among them some of Iran's fiercest critics - that any move to let up on the Iranian government would only strengthen its "uncompromising elements", and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "will be perceived as the winner".
In reference to the current international sanctions against Iran, he said it would be "a historical mistake to lift the sanctions, just before they are really effective".
Netanyahu's comments were backed up by Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who called on the main powers in the Geneva talks to maintain pressure on Iran.
Steinitz said it was the effect of sanctions, and the subsequent fact the "Iranian economy is in very bad shape", that was driving the Iranians to come to the talks.
"The dilemma will be crystal clear to them - that if they want to save their economy, they need to give up their nuclear project," he said.
But in the U.S. - which has also shown a tough stance against lifting sanctions on Iran - nine leading senators said they were open to the idea of suspending new sanctions if Tehran took significant steps to slow its nuclear program.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, the senators - both Democrats and Republicans - said the US should consider a plan of "suspension for suspension", in which Iran would suspend its nuclear enrichment program and Washington would suspend new sanctions.
But the senators - who include the influential Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham - emphasized that, in the meantime, the threat of military force should remain, and pressure should be kept up against Iran.
Western nations believe Iran's uranium enrichment program is covertly meant to achieve a nuclear arms capability. Tehran denies this, saying it wants only to master nuclear technology to generate electricity and carry out medical research.