Biden tells Israel’s Lapid U.S. will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid the United States will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, the White House said, as Tehran seeks stronger guarantees from Washington for the revival of a nuclear deal with world powers.

Israel opposes a return to the 2015 deal, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of U.S., European Union and United Nations sanctions on Tehran.

To Israel’s delight, former president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions, prompting Tehran to violate the pact’s nuclear limits. Biden has vowed to revive the agreement while ensuring the security of Israel, Iran’s regional arch foe.

“The President underscored U.S. commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon” in a call in which Biden and Lapid also discussed “threats posed by Iran,” the White House said in a statement.

Biden also emphasized the importance of concluding maritime boundary negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, the statement added.

In its own readout of the call, Lapid’s office said they “spoke at length about the negotiations on a nuclear agreement, and their shared commitment to stopping Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon.”

The nuclear deal appeared near revival in March. But indirect talks between Tehran and Washington then broke down over several issues, including Tehran’s insistence that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) close its probes into uranium traces found at three undeclared sites before the nuclear pact is revived.

Biden and Lapid in July signed a joint pledge to deny Iran nuclear arms, a show of unity between allies long divided over diplomacy with Tehran. But Lapid said last week that if the 2015 deal is revived, Israel will not be bound by it.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Rami Ayyub in WashingtonEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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