Israel’s incoming prime minister branded Iran’s new president the “hangman of Tehran” over the weekend and called on world leaders not to restore a nuclear deal with his hardline government.
aftali Bennett also described Ebrahim Raisi as a “butcher”, alluding to claims he was complicit in a massacre of political prisoners in 1988.
Mr Raisi was elected with just under 62pc of the vote last Thursday, replacing the comparatively moderate Hassan Rouhani.
But his victory was marred by a low turnout and he is under immense pressure to deliver economic improvements.
He pledged during his election campaign to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers in a bid to lift punishing US sanctions. Delegates adjourned talks in Vienna yesterday, with Iranian diplomats saying a deal was “close”.
Israel, which is locked in a so-called “shadow war” with the Islamic Republic, says the nuclear deal is insufficient to prevent Tehran from building a bomb.
“Raisi’s election is, I would say, the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement, and to understand who they are doing business with,” Mr Bennett said in a cabinet meeting yesterday. “A regime of brutal hangmen must never be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction.”
Mr Rouhani agreed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief in 2015.
Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal three years later and imposed extra sanctions in a bid to force concessions from Iran over its missile programme and military activity in the Middle East. Iran responded by resuming nuclear activities banned by the agreement.
Joe Biden’s administration has sought to restore the agreement, but wants Iran to return to full compliance before lifting sanctions. Iran has demanded the US lift sanctions first.
Delegates from Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China left Vienna yesterday, amid reports that only “political issues” stood in the way of a deal.
“We are now closer than ever to an agreement but the distance that exists between us and an agreement remains and bridging it is not an easy job,” said Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s delegation chief.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative, said the joint committee “decided to make a break to allow participants to consult with the capitals in preparation for what is supposed to be the final round of negotiations.”
However, EU officials said that significant political obstacles remained. Enrique Mora, the EU official who chaired the final meeting of the sixth round of talks, told reporters: “We are closer to a deal, but we are not still there.
“We have now more clarity on technical documents, all of them quite complex, and that clarity allows us to have also a great idea of what the political problems are.”
Mr Bennett heads a broad coalition of parties ranging from Jewish ultranationalists to liberal factions and a small Islamist party.
His government convened its first Cabinet meeting since it was sworn in last week, ousting long-time prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office and sending him to the opposition for the first time in 12 years.
Telegraph Media Group Limited