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Israel reserves the right to attack Iran at any time it chooses, under the pretext of preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons, Tel Aviv FM Yair Lapid said after meeting with his American and Emirati counterparts.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed in Washington on Wednesday, Lapid insisted that Tehran should not be allowed to obtain the bomb, claiming that the question was at “center” of his visit. Although Iran has long maintained that it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons, Lapid vowed that Israel would stop its alleged “bomb race” by any means necessary.

“Israel reserves the right to act at any time and in any way. It is not only our right, it is also our responsibility ”, he said. “Iran has publicly declared that it wants to annihilate us. We have no intention of letting this happen.

We know there are times when nations must use force to protect the world from evil. If a terrorist regime wants to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act, we must make it clear that the civilized world will not allow it. If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will be bombing.

While the FM also spoke of improving relations with Arab neighbors through a series of normalization agreements reached last year and noted that Israel had “Transformed the cold peace with Egypt and Jordan into a warm peace” much of his prepared remarks focused on Iran. His main reason for meeting Blinken and bin Zayed, he said, was “Concern over Iran’s race to nuclear capability.”

“Iran is becoming a country on the nuclear threshold. Every day that passes, every delay in negotiations brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb ”, He continued. “The Iranians are clearly dragging their heels, trying to trick the world into continuing to enrich uranium, to develop their ballistic missile program.”

Although a major agreement reached between Iran and world powers in 2015 placed strict limits on Tehran’s civilian nuclear power program and created a strict safeguards system under the International Energy Agency (IAEA), former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, reimposing all US sanctions (and then some) in direct disregard of its terms.

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In response, Iran has stepped up its uranium enrichment beyond the caps set in the deal, arguing that it will only revert to those limits when Washington meets its own commitments. He also cited provisions in the agreement that explicitly state that Iran would treat the reimposition of sanctions as “Grounds for ceasing to perform its commitments” according to the contract “In whole or in part”, claiming that its increased uranium enrichment is a legitimate reaction.

Talks to revive the nuclear pact began shortly after President Joe Biden took office in January, although negotiations in Vienna dragged on for months and appear to have made little progress. U.S. officials have repeatedly suggested that they would like a “longer and stronger” agreement that covers non-nuclear issues, such as Iran’s ballistic missile program. Tehran, however, sees this as a non-starter and has asked Washington to revert to the deal already reached in 2015.

Lapid’s comments on Wednesday echoed remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to the United Nations General Assembly late last month, where he said Iran’s arms program was at stake. “a critical point” and is now “A step below military grade equipment”. The prime minister reiterated the warnings of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who insisted that Tehran has been on the verge of getting a bomb since the 1990s. These predictions have so far not been confirmed, of numerous IAEA inspections revealing no weapons program.

In his own appearance before the General Assembly last month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi denied the accusations, saying nuclear weapons “Have no place in our defense doctrine” and are banned under a religious decree from Iran’s Supreme Leader. He urged the United States to “stay true” to the 2015 nuclear deal, promising to do the same if Washington abandons its “illegal” sanctions and come back to the agreement.

“Fifteen reports published by the IAEA have confirmed Iran’s adherence to its commitments. However, the United States has not yet fulfilled its obligations, which lifts the sanctions ”, he said.

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