Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Netanyahu Renews Calls For 'Clear Red Line' On Iran


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Israel's prime minister came to New York today to warn the world about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: The hour is getting late, very late.

SIEGEL: Benjamin Netanyahu gave a forceful speech on the floor of the U.N. General Assembly calling for clear red lines in Iran. Many nations in the U.N. are worried about the increasing talk of war. Netanyahu says instead they should be worried about what Iran would do with a nuclear bomb. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Netanyahu took the stage a day after Iran's president was here describing Israel as a fake government. The Israeli leader says given the Iranian rhetoric and it's record of supporting terrorists around the world, everyone should be worried about a nuclear-armed Iran.

NETANYAHU: Imagine their long-range missiles tipped with nuclear warheads, their terror networks armed with atomic bombs. Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who'd be safe in Europe? Who'd be safe in America?

KELEMEN: President Obama told the General Assembly this week that the U.S. is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Netanyahu thinks Iran needs to understand the red line comes well before then. Holding up a picture of a bomb marked with the stages of uranium enrichment, Netanyahu pulled out his red pen and, like a professor, explained to the U.N. where he'd draw the line.

NETANYAHU: A red line should be drawn right here, before - before Iran completes the second stage of nuclear enrichment necessary to make a bomb.

KELEMEN: And he said he thinks if Iran knows it can't cross that line, it will back down. Netanyahu has been talking about these dangers for 15 years now and says he continues to do so now because the hour is getting late.

NETANYAHU: I speak about it now because when I comes to the survival of my country, it's not only my right to speak, it's my duty to speak.

KELEMEN: Shortly before Netanyahu was at the podium talking about Iranian terrorism, the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas accused Israeli settlers of carrying out terrorist attacks in the West Bank. Speaking through an interpreter, Abbas called this a byproduct of decades of Israeli occupation.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS: (Through interpreter) We are facing relentless modes of attack against our people, our mosques, churches and monasteries and our homes and schools.

KELEMEN: Abbas says he comes representing an angry people who don't think Israel is ready to negotiate on Palestinian statehood.

ABBAS: (Through interpreter) Israel refuses to end the occupation and refuses to allow the Palestinian people to attain their rights and freedom and reject the establishment of the state of Palestine. Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe.

KELEMEN: Abbas was well received at the U.N. as he renewed his bid for recognition of the state of Palestine, even before that can be negotiated with Israel. The U.S. has blocked action in the Security Council on that, but Abbas, through his interpreter, said he'll go for a more symbolic vote in the General Assembly.

ABBAS: (Through interpreter) In our endeavors, we do not seek to delegitimize an existing state that is Israel, but rather to assert the state that must be realized that is Palestine.

KELEMEN: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu hardly addressed the Palestinian issue, but said, quote, "libelous speeches at the U.N. and unilateral declarations of statehood won't solve our problems." Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.