Muscat Daily

Lloyd Austin in Israel amid Iran nuke talks

Israel under hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal

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Tel Aviv, Israel - Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Israel on Sunday on the first high-level visit from the new US administra­tion, after talks restarted on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Austin’s visit comes just days after Washington said it had offered ‘very serious’ ideas on reviving the hobbled agreement that is staunchly opposed by Israel. Austin’s first scheduled stop on the two-day trip was a meeting with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz.

Israel under hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal, dating back to when it was being negotiated during Barack Obama’s administra­tion.

Netanyahu applauded when Trump withdrew from the deal and imposed sanctions on Tehran, which responded by stepping back from several of its commitment­s under the deal.

In the latest breach of its undertakin­gs in the troubled agreement, Tehran announced on Saturday that it had started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuge­s. President Hassan Rouhani inaugurate­d a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuge­s for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades - of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6S devices respective­ly - at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.

An ‘accident’ took place at Nantaz on Sunday but caused no casualties or damage, the Fars news agency reported.

In an address marking the eve of Holocaust Remembranc­e Day, Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel would not be bound to a nuclear deal that would enable the Islamic republic to develop nuclear weapons.

“An agreement with Iran that would pave the way to nuclear weapons - weapons that threaten our extinction - would not compel us in any way,” said the veteran rightwing Prime Minister.

Biden has said he is prepared to return to the agreement, arguing the deal had - until Washington’s withdrawal - been successful in dramatical­ly scaling back Iran’s nuclear activities.

But Washington has demanded Iranian movement back towards compliance while Tehran has insisted on an end to all US restrictio­ns, with each side demanding that the other make the first move.

 ??  ?? US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (centre, left) with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz (centre, right) during an honour guard ceremony at Israel’s military headquarte­rs, in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv on Sunday
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin (centre, left) with Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz (centre, right) during an honour guard ceremony at Israel’s military headquarte­rs, in Israel’s capital Tel Aviv on Sunday

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