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Published: Monday May 12, 2014 MYT 8:10:01 PM
Updated: Monday May 12, 2014 MYT 8:11:18 PM

Israeli PM says Iran's nuclear programme a 'clear and present danger'

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks after a signing ceremony with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks after a signing ceremony with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Iran's nuclear programme is a clear and present danger and the country cannot be allowed to get the capability to make nuclear arms, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday described as "stupid and idiotic" Western expectations for his country to curb its missile development, taking a defiant tone ahead of another round of nuclear talks.

In Japan for meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials, Netanyahu compared the danger posed by Iran to that of North Korea, which this weekend renewed a threat to conduct a nuclear test amid rising worries that the reclusive state may set off an atomic device for the fourth time.

Netanyahu, at a press event with Abe, told reporters that Israel and Japan faced the challenge of "rogue states arming themselves with nuclear weapons".

"You have called North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles a 'clear and present danger' and I wholeheartedly share your assessment," Netanyahu added.

"Those same words, clear and present danger, certainly apply to the Iranian nuclear programme as well."

Iran and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia will meet in Vienna on Tuesday to try to iron out differences over how to end a long standoff over suspicions that Tehran has sought the means to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran denies accusations that it is seeking nuclear weapons capability and insists that its missile programme, one of the biggest in the Middle East, is part of its conventional armed forces.

North Korea has a stockpile of missiles and concern is growing about whether it is on the path to developing a nuclear arsenal.

"We cannot let the ayatollahs win," Netanyahu said. "We cannot enable the world's foremost terrorist states to get the capability to make nuclear weapons."

Netanyahu arrived in Japan on Sunday and will remain until Thursday, meeting business leaders and officials such as Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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