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Iran N-deal cannot be postponed any longer, says Scholz

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JERUSALEM: A new Iran nuclear agreement “cannot be postponed any longer”, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during his first visit to Israel, which staunchly opposes efforts to forge a deal with Tehran.

Policy differences on Iran, long Israel’s arch-foe, surfaced at a Jerusalem joint press conference, with Scholz saying Germany “would like to see an agreement reached in Vienna”.

“Now is the time to make a decision,” Scholz said. “This must not be postponed any longer and cannot be postponed any longer. Now is the time to finally say yes to something that represents a good and reasonable solution.”

The latest round of negotiations to salvage Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal started in late November and the talks are expected to reach a crunch point in the coming days.

The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), secured sanctions relief for Iran in return for strict curbs on its nuclear programme to prevent it from acquiring an atomic weapon, a goal Iran has always denied pursuing.

Israel is a long-standing critic of the JCPOA, arguing that giving Tehran sanctions relief would boost state revenues that will buy weapons for Iranian proxies across the Middle East, notably the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah.

Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu cheered when then-president Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018.

Bennett on Wednesday reiterated that he was watching “the talks in Vienna with concern”.

“The possibility of them negotiating an agreement that will allow Iran to install centrifuges on a large scale within a few years is not acceptable to us,” he said, without detailing his source for the substance of the proposed deal.

“Israel will know how to defend itself and ensure its security and future.”

The Jewish state has maintained that, regardless of any agreement that may be reached in Vienna, it would maintain full freedom to act against its arch-enemy Iran.

“We also expect our friends in the world not to put up with a situation of massive installation of centrifuges in two or three years,” the premier said.

On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Wednesday underlined the necessity of resolving the remaining issues in the ongoing talks in Vienna between Iran and the five world powers, noting that Iran’s interests, including the economic ones, have to be preserved.

Amirabdollahian made the remarks during a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

The Iranian foreign minister referred to the advances in the Vienna talks and said that some important issues are still remaining while stressing the need to protect the Iranian national interests.

He, meantime, said that Tehran has so far offered many initiatives to resolve the remaining issues.

“Reaching an agreement requires a political will and determination, as well as a realistic view on the part of the Western parties,” Amirabdollahian added.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, for his part, referred to the close relationship between the two sides in the Vienna talks and said that through the coordination and joint efforts, many achievements have been made so far.

He expressed hope that by maintaining the current trend and the interaction of the negotiating parties, an agreement could be reached in Vienna.

Meanwhile, Director-General of International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi is traveling to Tehran on Saturday following intensive talks and agreements with Iran’s nuclear officials in recent weeks.

Grossi will meet with the Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Mohammad Eslami and other officials. The trip is aimed at settling some disputes over Iran’s nuclear activities and the issues regarding safeguards agreement between the UN nuclear watchdog and the AEOI.

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