Israel eyed with suspicion on Tuesday an expected deal between the U.N. nuclear watchdog and Iran on investigating Tehran's nuclear activity, citing an Iranian track record of evading and limiting international inspections.
"Iran has proven over the years its lack of credibility, its dishonesty -- telling the truth is not its strong side -- and therefore we have to be suspicious of them all the time, and examine the agreement that is being formulated," Civil Defence Minister Matan Vilnai said on Israel Radio.
His comments were echoed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who said: "At this point, in light of past experience, we are suspicious."
The two cabinet members spoke after Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he expected to sign an agreement with Iran soon on easing an IAEA investigation into suspected work on designing nuclear weapons.
"There was an important development on the structured approach document on which we have been working since January,” IAEA Director General Amano said today in Vienna after returning from Tehran, where the deal was reached yesterday. “The decision was made to conclude and sign an agreement.”
The accord will be signed “quite soon,” Amano told journalists, without giving a date or details. The agreement comes as negotiators head to Baghdad for a second round of negotiations tomorrow over Iran’s nuclear program.
While IAEA inspectors regularly visit sites where Iran enriches uranium, the agency has been seeking more access to facilities suspected of hiding undeclared nuclear work. It’s the first time since 2007 that the Islamic Republic, which says its atomic work is for peaceful purposes, has accepted an IAEA proposal to boost cooperation and allow wider inspections.
“We urge Iran to take this opportunity to resolve all outstanding concerns about the nature of its nuclear program,” U.S. envoy Robert Woods said today in an e-mailed statement. “Full and transparent cooperation with the IAEA is the first logical step.”
Asked why military action against Iran, long hinted by Israel, was still a possibility with apparent progress being made on the diplomatic track, Vilnai said: "One shouldn't get confused for even a moment -- everything is on the table."
Iran and six world powers are to hold broader negotiations on Wednesday in Baghdad on curbing what the West and Israel suspect is its drive to develop the means to make atom bombs.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that "the leading nations of the world must show force and clarity, and not weakness" in their dealings with Iran.
Netanyahu has demanded that Iran stop all uranium enrichment, remove enriched material and dismantle its underground, bunkered nuclear facility near the city of Qom.
Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official, predicted that Iran would take a conciliatory tack at the Baghdad talks while not abandoning its goal of becoming a nuclear power.
"They will be willing to show what appears to be flexibility as long as it doesn't affect their strategic direction, meaning that they will be able to develop nuclear weapons if that decision is made," Gilad told Army Radio.
"Today they have enough uranium, raw material, for the bomb, they have the missiles that can carry them and they have the knowledge to assemble a warhead on a missile," he said.
"They have not yet decided to do this because they are worried about the response."
Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, feels menaced by the prospect of its arch-foe Iran going nuclear and has hinted it could launch pre-emptive war. Iran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy.
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.