PARIS -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won pledges yesterday from France's president to push harder for new sanctions against Iran to keep it from developing nuclear weapons -- but no sympathy for any possible Israeli military strike against Iran.
In a visit to Paris, Netanyahu praised French pressure on Iran and called for "even tougher sanctions" than the ones currently in place. "The sanctions are taking a bite out of Iran's economy . . . unfortunately they have not stopped the Iranian program," he said.
Israel has been an outspoken critic of Iran's disputed nuclear program, repeatedly saying that Tehran is well on the way to developing an atomic bomb. Israel believes a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to its very existence, citing Iranian leaders' frequent calls for destruction of the Jewish state, Iran's development of long-range missiles and Iranian support for Arab militant groups.
"Given the history of the Jewish people, I would not sit by and write off a threat by those who say they are going to annihilate us," Netanyahu told reporters. He said Arab nations, too, would be "relieved" if Iran were militarily prevented from obtaining nuclear arms.
Tehran has long insisted it is not developing atomic weapons. But French President Francois Hollande said yesterday that Iran has not proven that its nuclear program is aimed only at civilian use.
Hollande has supported a push for tougher European Union sanctions on Iran, but wants to keep the door open to dialogue, and has opposed Netanyahu's talk of possible military action.
"It's a threat that cannot be accepted by France," Hollande said at Netanyahu's side, warning that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a danger to the region and the world. France, Hollande said, "is ready to vote for other sanctions, as many as necessary."