JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Monday a European Union decision to place sanctions on Iranian oil exports, but said it was unclear if the move could thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"I think this is a step in the right direction," Netanyahu said at a meeting of his Likud faction in parliament.
"For now, it is impossible to know what the result of these sanctions will be. Heavy and swift pressure is needed on Iran and the sanctions must be evaluated according to their results."
Netanyahu said that despite world pressure so far "Iran is continuing undeterred to develop nuclear weapons."
Tensions have risen in recent weeks over Iran's atomic program which Israel views as a threat to its existence and which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes.[nL5E8CN1QJ]
Israel has been keen for Western nations to intensify sanctions against Iran to try to persuade the Islamist regime to halt its nuclear program.
The United States has led Western pressure on Iran to curb uranium enrichment that might provide material for weapons.
Washington's ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, was quoted as saying last week that the Obama Administration was ready to move beyond sanctions if Iran's suspected atomic weapons ambitions were not curbed.
But Washington was keen to coordinate with Israel, and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey paid a visit last week which Israeli officials said was to coordinate strategy. Dempsey has said he was not sure if Israel would give him advance warning if it decided to strike Iran.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and David Stamp)