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Israel's Netanyahu Urges Pressure On Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for increased international pressure on Iran over that country's disputed nuclear program.

Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on October 20 that "international pressure must stay in place until we see actions instead of words." He then added: "This pressure should be intensified to increase chances to make Iran stop its military nuclear program."

The Israeli prime minister later made similar statements in an appearance on the U.S. television program "Meet the Press."

"I think the pressure has to be maintained on Iran, even increased on Iran, until it actually stops the nuclear program, that is, dismantles it," Netanyahu said. "I think that any partial deal could end up dissolving the sanctions. There are a lot of countries that are waiting for a signal, just waiting for a signal to get rid of their sanctions regime and I think you don't want to go through half-way measures."

He then compared Iran's behavior with that of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"Suppose Syria said - well, you know, we're going to dismantle 20 percent of it, and give me ease of sanctions because of that - nobody would buy that," he said. "That's exactly what Iran is trying to do. They're trying to give a partial deal that they know could end up dissolving the sanctions regime and would keep them with the nuclear weapons capabilities."

Tehran insists that its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

U.S. Position Softening?

Netanyahu's comments came as U.S. officials discussed the possibility of easing sanctions in response to overtures from the government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on U.S. television on October 20 that Washington would take a step-by-step approach in response to concrete Iranian actions.

Earlier this month, representatives of Iran and leading Western powers met for two days of talks in Geneva. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton praised that meeting as "substantive" and "very important."

She added that a proposal brought forward by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was an "important contribution."

INTERVIEW: U.S. Congressman On Diplomatic Momentum With Iran

The Iranian plan is reportedly divided into three stages and includes a scaling back of the country's uranium-enrichment program -- a key demand of the six powers, who suspect the ultimate goal of Iran's nuclear program is an atomic weapon.

A further round of talks is set for November 7 and 8.

Based on reporting by AP, ITAR-TASS, and AFP