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Netanyahu launches assault on Iran deal at U.N.

Israeli PM used his annual U.N. address on Thursday to launch an all-out assault on the historic nuclear deal with Iran

Published: Updated:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his annual United Nations address on Thursday to launch an all-out assault on the historic nuclear deal with Iran, warning that his country would never let the Islamic Republic join the atomic weapons club.

Speaking at the yearly gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu reiterated Israeli criticism of a deal between Iran and major world powers aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program.

He said that, once international sanctions are lifted, “unleashed and unmuzzled, Iran will go on the prowl.”

Israel, Netanyahu said, would never allow Iran “to break in, to sneak in, or to walk into the nuclear weapons club.”

Israel, which experts and diplomats say has the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, has repeatedly warned it is prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from acquiring atomic weapons. Tehran denies wanting nuclear arms and insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has vigorously defended the July 14 nuclear agreement with Iran against criticism from Republicans in Congress, who tried unsuccessfully to kill the deal, and Israel, describing it as the best way to avoid a new war in the Middle East.

During Netanyahu’s speech, Washington was represented by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power’s deputy, David Pressman, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. Power and Secretary of State John Kerry are both in New York, but Power’s spokeswoman, Hagar Chemali, said they had to join a video conference call with Obama that ended up coinciding with the Israeli speech.

The Israeli leader held up a copy of the latest book by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that he said was a “400-page screed detailing his plan to destroy the state of Israel.”

Diplomatic sources have said that Israel and Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, have been discussing how to respond to the nuclear deal and their fear that the lifting of sanctions, expected in the coming months, will embolden Iran to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.