Israel 'highly sceptical' of IAEA deal with Iran

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Israel is 'highly sceptical' about a deal between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran aimed at trying to solve the dispute over its nuclear drive, a senior official said on Tuesday.

"We are highly sceptical about this apparent agreement between the IAEA and Iran," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"This apparent agreement with Iran only deals with IAEA supervision; it doesn't deal with the bigger issue: stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon."

Earlier on Tuesday, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said the UN nuclear watchdog would sign an accord "quite soon" with Iran in a bid to end the long-running crisis over its atomic activities, in what he termed an "important development."

"We are pretty suspicious," said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's nine-member inner circle.

"We have seen the Iranians playing hide-and-seek for years with the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency," he told Israeli army radio.

"They stop enriching; afterwards they resume enrichment," he said.

Amano's remarks were made on his return to Vienna after top-level talks in Tehran which touched on gaining access to the Parchin military site, where the watchdog believes weapons-related activity took place.

But the Israeli official said Iran had a history of violating agreements with the IAEA.

"We saw in the past how agreements between the IAEA and Iran were flagrantly violated by Iran," he said.

"We saw that specifically when they hid two nuclear facilities, one in Natanz and one near Qom. We saw the same with North Korea, which despite their agreement with the IAEA, continued to develop nuclear arms."

Addressing MPs at the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defence, a senior official within Israel's military intelligence services said Iran wanted to give the appearance of cooperation, in order to carry on with its nuclear programme.

"Iran wants talks to continue, to avoid being forced to close its Qom facility and to stop enriching uranium," said Brigadier General Itai Brun, who heads the research division, in comments communicated by a spokesperson.

News of the deal was announced on the eve of fresh talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers due to take place in Baghdad on Wednesday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging the international community to show "determination, not weakness" over Iran's nuclear drive.

"We stand by what Prime Minister Netanyahu said last night: Iran must stop all enrichment, remove enriched material, and dismantle the site near Qom," the official said.

The West and Israel, widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, suspect Iran is using its nuclear programme to build atomic weapons, charges that Tehran denies.

Israel says an atomic Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and has refused to rule out the option of a pre-emptive military strike on its nuclear facilities.

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