UN atomic agency chief arrives in Israel for talks

June 2, 2022 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The director of the U.N.’s atomic watchdog arrived in Israel on Thursday and is set to hold talks with top officials.

The visit comes as Israel expresses mounting concerns about Iran’s atomic activities and any return to the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East but has never publicly acknowledged having such weapons.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he would meet with Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Friday.

Earlier this week, Israel accused Iran of stealing classified documents from the IAEA and using them to deceive international inspectors nearly two decades ago. It released what it said were some of the documents in question. Iran has dismissed the allegations as lies.

Israel was a staunch opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal and welcomed the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement, which caused it to collapse. The Biden administration has been trying to renew the accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for limits to and oversight of its nuclear program.

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Iran has always said its nuclear activities are for purely peaceful purposes but has stepped up uranium enrichment after the collapse of the nuclear accord to near weapons-grade levels.

U.S. intelligence agencies, Western nations and the IAEA have said Iran ran an organized nuclear weapons program until 2003. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has ruled out the use of military force to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.