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Iranian nuclear chief hints Tehran's atomic programme WAS geared towards building a nuclear bomb


A former Iranian nuclear chief has hinted that top scientists in Tehran have been secretly building nuclear bombs despite decades of denials.

Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the ex-head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, admitted a ‘system’ existed with military capabilities.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had even issued a fatwa against developing and using nuclear weaponry and leaders repeatedly claimed its nuclear sites were only ever intended for peaceful purposes.

Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the ex-head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, has hinted that Tehran's nuclear programme was geared towards creating a nuclear bomb

Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, the ex-head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, has hinted that Tehran’s nuclear programme was geared towards creating a nuclear bomb

It comes as Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett called on world powers today not to ‘give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail’ by ending sanctions ‘in exchange for almost nothing’ as talks began in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal. 

The talks restarted after a five-month hiatus, with Iran ‘determined’ to reach a deal despite fears of major obstacles, particular from Israel.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have already threatened military strikes and is reading itself for ‘Plan B’ if the talks fail. 

The tensions come on the first anniversary of the assassination of senior scientist and former deputy defence minister Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed by Israel’s spy agency Mossad.

He was accused by Israel of being the mastermind behind the nuclear programme, claiming he oversaw a vast array of scientific programmes including a uranium enrichment facility which together could provide the infrastructure necessary to build nuclear bombs.

Abbasi-Davani all but confirmed Israel’s version of events, saying Fakhrizadeh had a key role in the nuclear ‘system’ which was why he was assassinated.

The comments come on the first anniversary of the assassination of senior scientist and former deputy defence minister Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (pictured)

The comments come on the first anniversary of the assassination of senior scientist and former deputy defence minister Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (pictured)

He said, according to The Times: ‘When the country’s all-encompassing growth began involving satellites, missiles and nuclear weapons, and surmounted new boundaries of knowledge, the issue became more serious for them.

‘Although our stance on nuclear weapons based on the supreme leader’s explicit fatwa regarding nuclear weapons being haram is quite clear, Fakhrizadeh created this system and his concern wasn’t just the defence of our own country.

‘Our country backs the axis of the resistance front [against Israel] and when you enter this realm, the Zionists become sensitive.’ 

Iran has ramped up its uranium enrichment since the US withdrew from the landmark nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran in 2018.

Israel vocally opposed the agreement, and Israeli officials now say Tehran is closer than ever to developing nuclear arms, something it will not abide.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is visiting London and Paris this week to discuss the situation with British and French officials. Israel’s Defence Minister, Benny Gantz, will head to Washington this week with the same aim.

The breakdown of the agreement was blamed on the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it and restore crippling sanctions.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had even issued a fatwa against developing and using nuclear weaponry

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had even issued a fatwa against developing and using nuclear weaponry

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed country in the Middle East, although it maintains a policy of ambiguity about its own programme. 

The IDF say they are keeping an eye on talks and are wary of conflict with Iran or its proxies, and are ramping up exercises with reserve forces in the largest training operation in years. 

Joint drills with Gulf Arab states are being conducted by the IDF, with a multilateral marine security exercise taking place this month with the UAE, Bahrain and US Naval Forces Central Command, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Air drills have also been carried out with air forces from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the US, as well as their Gulf allies.

Marom Division commander Col. Aviran Lerer said it shows Israel could soon join a regional military coalition. 

He said: ‘We, as an army, have to do everything we can to be ready for a future conflict; we see the Americans as a strategic ally, and there could be a time when we will work and fight together.’   

The international nuclear discussions were paused in June after the election of an ultraconservative new president, Ebrahim Raisi. Diplomats at the time had said they were ‘close’ to an agreement.

The international nuclear discussions were paused in June after the election of an ultraconservative new president, Ebrahim Raisi (pictured yesterday)

The international nuclear discussions were paused in June after the election of an ultraconservative new president, Ebrahim Raisi (pictured yesterday)

Iran ignored appeals from Western countries to restart the talks for several months, all the while strengthening the capabilities of its nuclear programme. In August, Raisi said Iran was again open to talks. 

Along with Iran, diplomats from Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are attending, while the US is taking part in the talks indirectly.

On Monday, Iran said it had ‘a firm determination to reach an agreement and is looking forward to fruitful talks’.

‘If the other side shows the same willingness, we will be on the right track to reach an agreement,’ said Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Said Khatibzadeh.

Last week, US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said Tehran’s attitude ‘doesn’t augur well for the talks’.

‘If they start getting too close, too close for comfort, then of course we will not be prepared to sit idly,’ Malley told the US National Public Radio.

A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna for the Iran talks

A general view of Palais Coburg, the site of a meeting of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Vienna for the Iran talks

The EU, which is chairing the talks, said on Monday it was ‘crucial to pick up from where we left it last June, and that all sides work swiftly and constructively to bring the JCPOA back on track as soon as possible’. 

The JCPOA offered a lifting of some of the array of economic sanctions Iran had been under in return for strict curbs on its nuclear programme.

But the deal started to unravel in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump pulled out and began reinstating sanctions on Iran.

Ordinary Iranians are hoping the talks may lead to some of those crippling sanctions being lifted.

Unemployed Tehran resident Davoud Lotfinia told AFP: ‘The sanctions probably haven’t affected the authorities, but the purchasing power of ordinary people is diminishing every day.’

The year after Trump’s move, Iran retaliated by starting to exceed the limits on its nuclear activity laid down in the deal.

In recent months, it has started enriching uranium to unprecedented levels and has also restricted the activities of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN watchdog charged with monitoring Iran’s nuclear facilities.

IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said ‘no progress’ was made on issues he raised during a visit to Tehran last week, which had hoped to address differences between the agency and Iran.

‘Iran’s unwillingness to reach a relatively straightforward compromise with the IAEA reflects poorly on the outlook for the nuclear talks,’ said Henry Rome, Iran specialist at the Eurasia Group think tank.

Israel's prime minister Naftali Bennett called on world powers today not to 'give in to Iran's nuclear blackmail'

Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett called on world powers today not to ‘give in to Iran’s nuclear blackmail’

‘Iran may calculate that its unconstrained nuclear advances… will put more pressure on the West to give ground in talks quickly,’ Rome said, warning this would ‘likely have the opposite effect’.

‘The situation regarding Iran’s nuclear advances is increasingly precarious,’ Kelsey Davenport, an expert with the Arms Control Association, told journalists last week. 

‘Iran is acting like the United States is going to blink first but… pressure is a double-edged sword’ which could kill any prospect of the 2015 deal being restored, Davenport added.

‘If there are gaps in the IAEA’s monitoring, it will drive the speculation that Iran has engaged in illicit activity, that it has a covert programme, whether there’s evidence to that or not,’ Davenport said, which could in turn ‘undermine the prospects for sustaining the deal’.

In London, top Israel diplomat Yair Lapid was scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday.

In advance of their meeting Truss and Lapid published an article in the Daily Telgraph newspaper saying they would ‘work night and day to prevent the Iranian regime from ever becoming a nuclear power’.

British foreign minister Liz Truss added in a statement that the UK wanted ‘Iran to agree to the original JCPOA’ but warned that if the talks ‘don’t work, all options are on the table’.



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