MUNICH: Israel said on Friday that “all possible means” were on the table to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and it demanded that the international community do more to stop Tehran’s proliferation of advanced weapons.
Talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers have been at a stalemate since September.
Western states accuse Iran of making unreasonable demands after all sides appeared to be nearing a deal, but with no breakthrough in sight Iran has continued to develop its nuclear programmme.
The United Nations nuclear watchdog this month criticized Iran for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
“When we speak of preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, we must keep all the possible means – I repeat, all possible means — on the table,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, speaking at an event alongside officials from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Yoav said Iran was expanding its advanced weapons proliferation beyond the region despite an ongoing an embargo that includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies that lasts until October 2023 and encompasses the export and purchase of advanced military systems.
“Iran is currently holding discussions to sell advanced weapons, including UAVs and PGMs, to no less than 50 different countries,” he said, referring to combat drones and precision-guided munitions and citing Belarus and Venezuela.
“The international community must create an effective alternative to the dying embargo – a practical mechanism of deterrence and consequences,” he said.
Israel is widely believed to have its own nuclear arsenal, though it will neither confirn no deny this.
The 2015 agreement limited Iran’s uranium enrichment program to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms, in return for lifting international sanctions. Iran says it was further developing nuclear energy for peaceful reasons.
Iran’s crackdown on protesters and the sale of drones to Russia in its war with Ukraine has also increased tensions with Western powers, who say that Tehran is violating a UN Security Council Resolution with its transfer of drones.
The United States and European Union have imposed several raft of sanctions on Iran over the drones transfers. The EU is set to punish individuals linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards over production of drones used against Ukraine.
Meanwhile, rotests have rocked Iran again after seeming to have dwindled in recent weeks, with marchers calling for the overthrow of the regime, online video posts purportedly showed on Friday.
The marches in numerous cities including Tehran that began on Thursday evening and went on into the night marked 40 days since the execution of two protesters last month. Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini were hanged on Jan. 8. Two others were executed in December.
The protests that have swept across Iran began last September after the death in custody of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini for flouting the hijab policy, which requires women to entirely cover their hair and bodies.
Videos on Friday showed demonstrations in several neighborhoods in Tehran as well as in the cities of Karaj, Isfahan, Qazvin, Rasht, Arak, Mashhad, Sanandaj, Qorveh, and Izeh in Khuzestan province.
An online video purportedly from the Shiite city of Mashhad in the northeast showed protesters chanting: “My martyred brother, we shall avenge your blood.” Other videos showed large protests on Friday in Zahedan, capital of southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, home to Iran’s Baluchi minority.
The judiciary said a court had dismissed and jailed a police commander accused of raping a girl. The incident fueled anger ahead of protests on Sept. 30 which faced a crackdown in Zahedan in which at least 66 people were killed.
While the unrest appeared to have tapered off in recent weeks, acts of civil disobedience have continued.
Nightly anti-government chants reverberate across Tehran and other cities. Youths spray graffiti at night denouncing the republic or burn pro-government billboards or signs on main highways. Unveiled women appear in the streets, malls, shops and restaurants despite warnings from officials.