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Netanyahu blasts IAEA head for saying attack on Iran would be ‘illegal’

“2,500 years ago an enemy arose in Persia who sought to destroy the Jews. They did not succeed then, neither will they succeed today,” says the Israeli premier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, Feb. 20, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a faction meeting at the Knesset, Feb. 20, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized as “unworthy” International Atomic Agency Director Raphael Grossi’s statement a day earlier that any attack Iran’s nuclear program would be illegal.

“Against which law?” said Netanyahu at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting. “Is Iran, which openly calls for our destruction, permitted to defend the destructive weapons that would slaughter us? Are we permitted to defend ourselves? It is clear that we are, and it is clear that we will do so.”

Rafael Grossi, he said, was “a worthy gentleman who said something unworthy.”

Noting that it was Purim eve, the Israeli premier said, “2,500 years ago an enemy arose in Persia who sought to destroy the Jews. They did not succeed then, neither will they succeed today.”

Following a meeting in Tehran on Saturday, Grossi said during a joint press conference with Mohammed Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, that “I think any attack, any military attack on a nuclear facility is outlaw[ed]—is out of the normative structures that we all abide by.”

The two-day meeting was a bid by the IAEA to convince Iran to cooperate as the U.N. nuclear watchdog seeks to monitor the country’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers.

The IAEA director said there were “great expectations” in the talks, which had expressed “readiness” to cooperate.

According to a statement released by the parties on Saturday, the two sides agreed to work in a spirit of collaboration. Specifically, Grossi said that Tehran will allow the IAEA to reinstall some monitoring equipment that was removed last year.

Grossi’s visit comes in the wake of a quarterly IAEA report released on Feb. 28 that found Iran can produce enough weapons-grade (90% enriched) uranium for a nuclear weapon in 12 days using half of its existing stock of 60% enriched uranium.

The IAEA also detected uranium particles enriched to 83.7% in samples taken at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) on Jan. 22.

The report said that a breakout to a nuclear weapon could be difficult for inspectors to detect quickly if Iran delayed inspectors’ access.

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