VIENNA (Reuters) - Israel accused Iran on Wednesday of using “deception and concealment” to buy time for its nuclear program, signaling skepticism about the new Iranian president’s move away from the hardline stance of his predecessor.
Israel, believed to be the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed power, also said an Arab push to single it out for criticism at a U.N. nuclear agency meeting this week would deal a “serious blow” to any attempt to hold regional security talks.
The election of a relative moderate, Hassan Rouhani, as Iranian president has raised hopes of progress in long-stalled efforts to find a solution to the decade-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.
An Iranian official said he saw an “opening” in Iran’s nuclear row with the West, in the latest signal that Tehran expects fresh movement to break the deadlock.
But the head of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission said: “The picture that the Iranian representatives are portraying regarding openness and transparency of their nuclear program ... stands in sharp contradiction with Iran’s actual actions and the facts on the ground.”
The issue was not whether Iran has “modified its diplomatic vocabulary ... but whether it is addressing seriously and in a timely manner outstanding issues that have remained unresolved for too long,” Shaul Chorev told the annual meeting of member states of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability and maintain a threat of possible military action if diplomacy fails.
Iran says its program is entirely peaceful and says it is Israel’s assumed atomic weaponry that threatens peace.
The IAEA’s latest report on Iran said it had further expanded its uranium enrichment capacity by installing many more centrifuges. Uranium can have both civilian and military uses.
Chorev accused Iran of “deception and concealment, creating a false impression about the status of its engagement with the agency ... with a view to buy more time in Iran’s daily inching forward in every aspect of its nuclear military program”.
Chorev accused Arab states of using the IAEA meeting to “repeatedly bash” Israel and he urged members to reject an Arab-sponsored draft resolution calling on Israel to join a global anti-nuclear weapons pact.
Frustrated over the postponement of an international conference on ridding the region of atomic arms, Arab states have proposed a non-binding resolution expressing concern about “Israeli nuclear capabilities”.
U.S. and Israeli officials have said a nuclear arms-free zone in the Middle East could not be a reality until there was broad Arab-Israeli peace and Iran scaled back its nuclear work.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy