JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opened his first cabinet meeting on Sunday since he swore in his new coalition government last week with a condemnation of the new Iranian president. He said Iran’s presidential elections were a signal for world powers to “wake up” before returning to a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Iran’s hardline judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi was elected on Saturday with 62% of the vote amid historically low turnout. The United States sanctions him in part for his participation in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the war between Iran and Iraq. Raisi has not specifically commented on the event.
Bennett said at the cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that “of all the people that (Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the executioner of Tehran, the infamous man among Iranians and around the world for leading the death committees that executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens over the years. ”
Iran and world powers were due to resume indirect talks in Vienna on Sunday to resurrect Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal, which provided relief from Iran’s sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.
For weeks, Iranian and American diplomats have been negotiating a return to the deal in the Austrian capital through European intermediaries.
Sunday’s talks are the first since Raisi’s election, which will put the hardliners in firm control of the Iranian government.
The historic nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, which Israel opposed, collapsed after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018. That decision has seen Iran, over time, abandon all constraints. enrichment and Tehran is currently enriching uranium. at its highest levels yet, though still below weapon grade levels.
Bennett said that Raisi’s election as Iranian president was “the last chance for world powers to wake up before going back to the nuclear deal and understanding who they are doing business with.
“These guys are murderers, mass murderers: a regime of brutal executioners should never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction that allow it not to kill thousands, but millions,” he said.
Israel has long stated that it opposes the nuclear program of Iran, its arch enemy, and said it would prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Earlier this month, Israel Mossad’s outgoing intelligence chief noted that Israel was behind a series of recent attacks on the country’s nuclear program.
Bennett heads a broad coalition of parties ranging from Jewish ultranationalists to liberal factions and a small Islamist party. His government called its first cabinet meeting since he was sworn in last week, ousting former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sending him to the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
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