Speaking to Al Jazeera, deputy PM admits Ahmadinejad was misquoted, never said Israel must be wiped off the map. US: Iran caving under paralyzing sanctions
Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy Dan Meridor told Al Jazeera that Iran never vowed to "wipe Israel off the map," as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed.
Speaking to the Arab network, Meridor, who also serves as deputy PM, said Iran's leaders "all come basically ideologically, religiously with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive." However, he added, "They didn't say 'we'll wipe it out,' but (rather) 'it will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed'. They repeatedly said 'Israel is not legitimate, it should not exist'."
Asked by Al Jazeera about the possibility of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and the outbreak of war in the Middle East, Meridor said Israel does not want a war, but added that Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions."
Meanwhile, the United States on Monday dismissed Iran's call for a lifting of sanctions, saying that the Islamic republic must first address concerns over its nuclear program in "concrete" ways.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner called the recent round of talks between Iran and the major world powers in Istanbul a "positive first step." The talks came in the wake of a 15-month halt in negotiations over Iran's nuclear development.
However, Toner clarified the talks were the first step in the right direction and there is more work to be done. "No one's talking about any sanctions being reversed or canceled at all," he said.
In response to Netanyahu's claim that Iran now has five additional weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, Toner said "We've got the strongest sanctions in history against Iran right now, and they're going to get stronger as we move into the summer."
"Iran is caving under the paralyzing sanctions and has further incentive to come to the negotiation table with practical proposals," he added.
Toner said that the United States, echoing a statement by EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, was ready to look at incentives in return for progress from Iran.
"We want to see Iran come up with some concrete proposals moving forward and that if that were to happen, we would look at ways -- Cathy Ashton's statement said as much -- to reciprocate," Toner said.
Earlier Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that the entire dispute could be quickly resolved if the West shows goodwill by easing sanctions.
Salehi further hinted that Iran could make concessions on its higher-grade uranium enrichment, a key concern of Western powers.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said during a meeting with National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror that increasing pressure on Iran following the initial round of nuclear talks with the world powers would be "dangerous."