Israeli Minister of International Relations Yuval Steinitz (Photo: Reuters)
Israel kept up its alarmist rhetoric on talks between world powers and Iran Wednesday, with a cabinet minister comparing the situation to pre-war Europe and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.
"We view the nuclear talks in Geneva with hope and with concern. We see the worrying signs and we don't want Geneva 2013 to turn into Munich 1938," International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said in remarks broadcast by Israel's army radio.
Steinitz was alluding to the 1938 Munich agreement under which Britain and France agreed to the annexation of large swathes of then Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany in a failed bid to avert war.
The remarks came as Iranian negotiators and counterparts from the European Union-chaired P5+1 group -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany -- met behind closed doors in Geneva to discuss Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.
The Geneva talks, which began Tuesday, ended a six-month freeze in dialogue sparked by Iran's refusal to curb uranium enrichment in exchange for easing the punishing international sanctions that have battered its economy.
The P5+1 and Israel, Iran's archfoe, fear that Tehran's atomic programme is a disguised effort to develop nuclear weapons capability, a claim it denies vehemently.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday urged world powers to avoid a partial deal with Tehran which could see a relaxing of sanctions, saying Israel reserved the right to carry out a unilateral military strike to prevent Iran getting the bomb.
"Pre-emptive strikes must not be ruled out," he told the Israeli Knesset (parliament).
"Such strikes are not necessarily called for in every case... but there are situations in which thinking about the international response to such a step is not equal to the bloody price we would pay" for the existence of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Netanyahu has repeatedly attacked Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani, who has made diplomatic overtures to the West, as a "wolf in sheep's clothing," saying he is no different from his belligerent, Holocaust-denying predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Israel is the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed power.