Sat, 23 Oct 2021

In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Iran had crossed 'all red lines' in its nuclear program, and vowed that Israel "will not allow" Tehran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Speaking at the world body's annual meeting in New York on September 27, Bennett made no mention of Israel's decades-long conflict with the Palestinians and sought to portray Iran as a menace to global security.

The Islamic republic has taken 'a major leap forward' in recent years in its nuclear production capacity and ability to enrich weapons-grade uranium, he said, adding: 'Iran's nuclear weapon program is at a critical point, all red lines have been crossed.'

Bennett, a right-wing politician who ended Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year rule as prime minister, wants U.S. President Joe Biden to harden his stance against Iran, Israel's regional archfoe.

He opposes the new U.S. administration's efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, abandoned in 2018.

The U.S. pullout from the agreement led to the return of painful economic sanctions on Iran.

Tehran, which says its nuclear ambitions are purely for civilian purposes, responded by breaching many of the accord's core restrictions.

After six rounds of indirect U.S.-Iran talks this year in Vienna, negotiations were suspended in June when hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi was elected as Iran's new president.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on the sidelines of the General Assembly on September 24 that Iran would return to negotiations 'very soon,' but the United States responded by saying it wasn't sure what timeframe Tehran had in mind.

In his speech, Bennett said Iran was seeking to "dominate" the Middle East "under a nuclear umbrella,' and urged a more concerted international effort to halt Iran's nuclear activities.

"Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning," he said.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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