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Israel indicates willingness to work with US over Iran

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Amid resumption of talks on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was in Israel on Sunday. He met Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz who indicated Israel’s willingness to work with US over Iran issue. Gantz told Austin that Israel will work with the US to ensure any “new agreement”  on Iran’s nuclear programme will safeguard regional security.

Gantz said “we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel”. 

Stressing America’s “iron-clad” bond with Israel, Austin said the US will “continue close consultations to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge and to strengthen Israel’s security”.

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This is the first high-level visit from the new US administration to Israel. 

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.

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Netanyahu had applauded when former US President Donald Trump had unilaterally withdrawn from the nuclear deal in 2018. The ensuing developments involved US reimposing sanctions and Iran stepping back from some of its commitments in 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.

(With AFP inputs)

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