Israel's president on Sunday said he would be willing to meet his Iranian counterpart if it would help reduce Mideast tensions, adding that he hoped the world's nuclear standoff with the Islamic republic could be resolved peacefully.
Addressing a business conference, President Shimon Peres said it was critical that the international community use the coming six months of negotiations with Iran to ensure it "doesn't become a nuclear danger to the rest of the world." Israel and Iran are bitter enemies, and Israeli leaders have voiced skepticism about the world's recent interim deal with Iran.
Under that deal, Iran agreed to freeze most of its suspect nuclear program in exchange for relief from painful international economic sanctions while a permanent agreement is negotiated.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has complained that the deal gave Iran too much relief while leaving Iran's nuclear infrastructure intact. Netanyahu, who believes Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb, says Iran's military nuclear program must be dismantled.
In a video address to the Brookings Institution in Washington, Netanyahu on Sunday pressed for further pressure on Iran ahead of a final deal.
"There must be an unequivocal demand, alongside the negotiations in Geneva, for a change in Iranian policy," Netanyahu said, adding that the world must insist not only on "the elimination of its capability to produce nuclear weapons but a demand to change its genocidal policy. That is the minimal thing the international community must do when it's negotiating with Iran."
In Washington on Saturday, President Barack Obama acknowledged the chances of reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran were no better than 50-50, a startling admission given his leading role in negotiating the interim deal.
"The problem is what will happen in the coming six months," Peres said. "There is no argument that we prefer a diplomatic solution. No one wants to run and shoot."
Asked whether he would be willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Peres said: "We not? I don't have enemies."
But Peres, a Nobel peace laureate, said Rouhani's influence is limited and noted there are other hardline elements in Iran that may not support his outreach to the West. "The purpose is to convert enemies into friends. If it was only him I'd take it with greater assurance but there are other structures, other people," he said.
Given the years of deep animosity between the two countries, any such meeting is highly unlikely.