Iran rejects Obama nuclear call before Netanyahu speech

Iran has rejected as "excessive and
illogical" a demand by US President
Barack Obama that it freeze sensitive
nuclear activity for at least 10 years.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was
quoted saying Mr Obama spoke in
"unacceptable and threatening" terms.
Mr Zarif said talks on Iran's nuclear
programme, which are nearing a critical 31
March deadline, would continue.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is
expected to urge the US Congress on Tuesday
to oppose a deal.
He was invited to speak at the US Capitol by
Republican House Speaker John Boehner,
angering Democrats.
Mr Netanyahu - who faces domestic elections
in two weeks' time - will not meet Mr Obama
during his visit to the US.
In his interview with Reuters news agency,
the US president said disagreements over
Iran would not be "permanently destructive"
to the US-Israel relationship.
But Mr Netanyahu had been wrong on Iran
before when he opposed an interim nuclear
agreement struck last year, Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama also said Iran should agree to
freeze sensitive nuclear activity if it wants to
strike a deal with the US. However, he said,
the odds were against talks with Iran ending
in agreement.
In a response quoted by Iran's semi-official
Fars news agency, Mr Zarif said his country
would "not accept excessive and illogical
demands".
John Kerry in Switzerland
The Swiss town of Montreux was the
setting for John Kerry's latest meeting Mr
Zarif
He added that Mr Obama's comments were
aimed at public opinion in the US, and
intended as a counter to the "propaganda" of
those who opposed the negotiations -
including Israel's prime minister.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Mr Zarif
in Switzerland on Tuesday, as part of ongoing
talks ahead of a 31 March deadline for a
framework agreement. The aim is then to
secure a final deal by 30 June.
In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Mr
Zarif emphasised both sides were committed
to reaching a deal.
"There is a seriousness that we need to move
forward," he said. "We need the necessary
political will to understand that the only way
to move forward is through negotiations."Mr Netanyahu is due to be presented with a
bust of Winston Churchill by the Republican
speaker John Boehner, who controversially
invited him to speak in Washington without
discussing the matter with the White House.
The Israeli prime minister sees himself as
Churchill's heir, warning against Iran as
Churchill warned against the Nazis.
But he's also been accused of political
calculation - helping out his Republican
friends and making the speech part of his
campaign in the Israeli general elections a
fortnight from now.
The Obama administration is countering by
pointing everything it does for Israel, from
$20bn in military aid since President Obama
was first elected to the use of the veto in the
UN Security Council to protect Israel
diplomatically.
High stakes for Netanyahu speech
Netanyahu speech is win-win for Iran
Republican invitation riles Obama
The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and
China are seeking to reach agreement to
curtail Iran's nuclear programme in exchange
for sanctions relief.
They are trying to address concerns that Iran
is seeking nuclear weapons technology,
something Tehran denies.
The Israelis say any agreement that leaves
Iran with the potential to use a peaceful
civilian nuclear programme for military
means, now or in the future, is unacceptable.
The leading Republican and Democrat on the
House foreign relations committee have sent
a letter to Mr Obama highlighting their
concerns about a deal.
They said Congress must be convinced that
any pathway Iran might have to developing a
nuclear weapon is shut off before Congress
considers easing sanctions.
Nuclear Iran: What world powers
want - and what they fear
World powers imposed sanctions on Iran
because they felt it was not being
honest about its nuclear programme and
was seeking the ability to build a nuclear
bomb.
Tehran denied this. Talks between Iran
and six world powers known as the P5+1
have tried to allay the suspicions in
exchange for easing the sanctions
Specifically, the world powers want to
curtail Iran's ability to enrich uranium,
which can be used to make reactor fuel
but also nuclear weapons
Disagreement centres on how to limit
Iran's development and use of
centrifuges that enrich uranium
Faster enrichment would cut the time
Iran would need to produce enough
weapons-grade uranium for a weapon,
were it to choose to do so. The US wants
this "break-out window" to be at least a
year long
It is not known if Iran has a warhead or
suitable delivery system