Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem
ISRAEL’S prime minister said yesterday that he was not seeking a military confrontation with Iran, even as he continued his public campaign to convince Donald Trump to strengthen the 2015 nuclear deal or pull the US out of it.
A day after Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled Israeli intelligence which he said proved that Iran had lied about its nuclear research, the Israeli leader talked down European fears that scrapping the deal could lead to war.
“Nobody is seeking that kind of development,” Mr Netanyahu said. “Iran is the one practising aggression against every country in the Middle East.”
With less than two weeks until the May 12 deadline when Mr Trump must decide whether to pull the US out of the Iran deal, Britain and France tried to turn Israel’s accusations to their own diplomatic advantage.
Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, argued that the new Israeli intelligence only underscored the need to keep the nuclear deal and preserve access for inspectors to look inside Iranian research facilities.
“The Israeli prime minister’s presentation on Iran’s past research into nuclear weapons technology underlines the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal’s constraints on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions,” Mr Johnson said.
“The Iran nuclear deal is based on tough verification, including measures that allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear programme.”
France’s foreign ministry echoed that sentiment, saying “the pertinence of the deal is reinforced by the details presented by Israel”.
Iran’s foreign ministry denounced Mr Netanyahu as a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits”.
The debate over the fate of the Iran deal is playing out against rising tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria. Israel is believed to have been behind two strikes in the last month which have killed Iranian soldiers in Syria.
Britain, France and Germany face an uphill battle to try to convince Mr Trump to stay in the nuclear agreement, which he has repeatedly denounced as a “horrible” deal for the US.
The IAEA, the United Nations’ watchdog given the task of inspecting Iran’s nuclear sites, said it was open to inspecting the new Israeli intelligence but it stood by its previous assessment: that there was “no credible indication” that Iran had continued research into a nuclear bomb after 2009. (© Daily Telegraph, London)