White House: Bibi's Criticism 'Premature'

The United States rejects Israel’s criticism of a proposed deal with Iran over its nuclear program, says "there is no deal" yet.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Netanyahu speaks to the press before meeting
Netanyahu speaks to the press before meeting
Flash 90

The United States on Friday rejected Israel’s criticism of a proposed deal with Iran over its nuclear program, AFP reports.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, "There is no deal. Any critique of the deal is premature."

Earnest echoed State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, who said Secretary of State John Kerry had gone to Geneva "to help narrow differences" between Iran and the world powers known as the P5+1 group.

Earlier, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met Kerry before he left for Geneva, and warned him that he was offering Iran the "deal of the century" to the Iranians.

Netanyahu vowed that Israel would not be bound by any international agreement on Iran's nuclear program and reserved the right to do whatever is necessary to defend itself.

Netanyahu and Kerry met on the tarmac of Ben Gurion airport. Kerry flew in from Amman for a brief stopover in Israel in a bid to soothe Israeli anger ahead of his trip to Geneva for a landmark three-way meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with Kerry, Netanyahu told reporters, "I reminded him (Kerry) that he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. And the deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal.”

"Iran is not required to take apart even one (uranium enrichment) centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years,” he added.

"I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal," Netanyahu said.

From Geneva, Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif hit back at Netanyahu, saying Israel did not "have any credibility" while Kerry later warned there was no deal yet with the Islamic republic over its nuclear program.

"It (Israel) is the only possessor of nuclear weapons in the region, the only non-member of the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), the only possessor of chemical weapons," Zarif told Swiss television channel RTS.

"So it doesn't have the legal credibility to accuse a country that is a long-standing member of the NPT, whose installations are under daily monitoring," he charged.

Kerry, meanwhile, told reporters in Geneva, "There is not an agreement at this point.” He added, "There are still some very important issues on the table that are unresolved."

Western governments - and Israel - suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability under cover of its civilian program.

Tehran denies any such ambition and, since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August, has made overtures suggesting it is prepared to scale back its enrichment of uranium in return for the easing of crippling Western sanctions.

Washington, which has not had diplomatic relations with Iran for three decades, has repeatedly said it is going into the talks with eyes wide open, seeking to explore the diplomatic possibilities of bringing its suspect nuclear program under international control.

Iran is anxious for relief from crippling Western economic sanctions that have cut oil revenues by more than half, caused the value of the rial to plunge and pushed inflation above 40 percent.

The West is keen to seize a rare opportunity to build bridges with Iran after decades of hostility, opening the door to engaging with Tehran on other issues like the conflict in Syria, where Iran has backed President Bashar Al-Assad against insurgents.

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is better than a confrontation with it.

Obama told NBC News that an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program would provide only "very modest relief" from the sanctions that have crippled the country’s economy.

He added that the agreement being worked out in Geneva would keep the bulk of sanctions on the Islamic Republic in place.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)