UNITED NATIONS - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday dismissed a charm offensive by Iran's new president as a ruse concocted by a "wolf in sheep's clothing," and declared that Israel was ready to stand alone to deny Tehran an atomic weapon.
In a combative address to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu assailed the trustworthiness of Hassan Rouhani, Iran's centrist president who has made diplomatic overtures to the United States and spoke by telephone last week with President Barack Obama.
"Rouhani doesn't sound like Ahmadinejad," Netanyahu said, referring to Rouhani's hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose annual UN addresses were stridently anti-Western and anti-Israel.
"But when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf's clothing, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community," Netanyahu said.
"This is a ruse," Netanyahu added. "It's a ploy."
Netanyahu's address, the last at this year's gathering of world leaders in New York, reflected Israeli worries that the emerging signs of what could become a US-Iranian rapprochement might lead to a premature easing of international sanctions and military threats designed to deny Iran the means to make a bomb.
"Don't let up the pressure," Netanyahu said, adding that the only deal that could be made with Rouhani was one that "fully dismantles Iran's nuclear weapons program."
Asked about Netanyahu's speech, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Israel's "skepticism is understandable."
"After all, this is a country whose leadership until recently was pledging to annihilate Israel," he said, referring to Ahmadinejad's suggestions that Israel had no right to exist.
The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program to try to develop the capability to produce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful energy purposes only. During his General Assembly speech last week, Rouhani said nuclear weapons "have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.