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Israeli officials chill enthusiasm over new Iranian president


08:15, June 17, 2013

JERUSALEM, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Israeli officials tried to cool off the world's optimism caused by the victory of moderate Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, who had won the elections over the weekend.

At the beginning of a weekly cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli media that the international community should continue to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program.

"The international community must not give in to wishful thinking or temptation and loosen the pressure of Iran for it to stop its nuclear program," he said.

The sentiment was also expressed by Israeli International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is in charge of monitoring strategic threats.

"As long as Iran's nuclear policy is dictated by Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei, sanction pressure against Iran must continue, regardless of the desire of the Iranian people for progress and change in the government of Iran," Steinitz told Army Radio on Sunday morning.

"Iran is only a year or less away from a nuclear red line," the minister added.

The same trend was reiterated in an official response by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Saturday night. "The president-elect .. . had been shortlisted by Khamenei, who has disqualified and removed candidates who did not conform to his extremist views," the ministry said in a statement sent to Xinhua.

"Iran's nuclear program has so far been determined by Khamenei and not by Iran's president," the statement said. "Iran will continue to be judged by its actions, in the nuclear sphere as well as on the issue of terror. It must abide the demands of the international community to stop its nuclear program and cease the dissemination of terror throughout the world," the statement concluded.

Israel and Iran are longtime staunch enemies, with Israel considering a nuclear Iran the biggest threat to its existence. Iran, on its part, insisted that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Last month, Steinitz said that "the most crucial issue is nuclear Iran" and that "the Iranian nuclear project changes the situation for the state of Israel, the Middle East and the entire world."

Israel has spent billions of shekels preparing for a possible armed conflict between itself and Iran in the past two years, in a campaign led by Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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