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Israel weighs formal response to Iran nuclear deal

world Updated: May 18, 2010 16:41 IST

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was consulting with senior members of his cabinet on Tuesday to formulate Israel's response to Iran's nuclear with Turkey and Brazil, officials said.

Israel, which considers Iran's nuclear drive a major threat to its security, has not formally responded to the accord signed in Tehran on Monday to ship Iranian low enriched uranium to Turkey.

"The prime minister is holding security consultations," a senior Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Late on Monday, Netanyahu ordered his ministers not to discuss the deal until Israel issues a formal response, his office said.

Earlier, a senior Israeli official accused Iran of having "manipulated" Turkey and Brazil, which brokered the deal.

"The Iranians have already pulled off such a trick in the past -- by pretending to accept such a procedure to lower tensions and reduce the risk of harsher international sanctions, then refusing to follow through," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Iran signed the accord with non-permanent UN Security Council members Turkey and Brazil to ship 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of its low enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for higher grade fuel for a research reactor.

The deal was also expected to further complicate Israel's once-strong ties with regional ally Turkey, which have seriously deteriorated since Israel's December 2008-January 2009 assault on Gaza to end militant rocket attacks.

Other nations which have been pressing for sanctions against the Iranian nuclear programme reacted to the deal with scepticism, but China said it supported the agreement.

"We hope this will help promote the peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations." foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said.

The issue could be raised in talks which US mediator George Mitchell is to hold with Israeli and Palestinian leaders later this week, a US embassy spokesman in Tel Aviv said.

"Netanyahu's advisers are also expected to discuss the matter with the Americans over the next several days in order to examine how it could influence the region and the strategy for dealing with the Iranian nuclear programme," the Maariv daily said.

Israel, the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, has long viewed Iran as its greatest strategic threat because of Tehran's nuclear programme and its leaders' repeated predictions of the demise of the Jewish state.

Like the United States, Israel has refused to rule out military action to halt Iran's nuclear drive despite Tehran's insistance that its programme is purely for civilian purposes.