Israel will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons: Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Jan 17, 2016.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Jan 17, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran on Sunday that Israel would not allow it to obtain nuclear weapons, after sanctions were lifted under Teheran's historic nuclear deal with global powers.

"Israel's policy has been and will remain exactly what has been followed: to not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons," Mr Netanyahu said during a Cabinet meeting, according to his office.

The Israeli premier strongly opposed the nuclear deal with Israel's arch-foe Iran and argued that it would not prevent Teheran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

He has also said that the lifting of sanctions will allow Iran to further back proxy militants in the region, including Israeli enemies Hizbollah.

Israel has not ruled out military force in order to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, though analysts say unilateral action would be highly unlikely.

Mr Netanyahu said Israel will continue to monitor Iran's agreements "on nuclear, on ballistic missiles and on terrorism" for potential violations.

If violations occur, the international community should "take tough and aggressive sanctions" against Iran, Mr Netanyahu said, adding that Israel "is ready to face any threat".

Israel is the Middle East's sole, but undeclared, nuclear power.

Mr Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday that "Iran has not relinquished its ambition to obtain nuclear weapons" and pledged to "warn of any violation" of the agreement.

The UN's atomic watchdog late on Saturday confirmed that Iran had complied with its obligations under last summer's accord and the United States and European Union announced they were lifting the sanctions that have for years crippled the country's economy.

The highly complex deal drew a line under a standoff dating back to 2002 marked by failed diplomatic initiatives, ever-tighter sanctions, defiant nuclear expansion by Iran and threats of military action.

In addition the nuclear talks put Iran and the United States on the road to better relations, more than three decades after the Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah.

Mr Netanyahu's harsh opposition to the accord, including in a speech to the US Congress, led to troubled ties with the United States, Israel's most important ally. He has scaled back his public comments on the deal in recent weeks.