NEW YORK: The administration of US President Donald Trump is pressing ahead with plans to create an “Arab NATO” that would unite US partners in the Middle East in an anti-Iran alliance.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met in New York with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE to advance the project.
The State Department says the ministers agreed on the need to confront threats from Iran and had productive discussions on Friday on setting up what is to be known as the “Middle East Strategic Alliance” to promote security and stability in the region.
The meeting took place as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif dismissed Israeli claims that Tehran was harboring a secret atomic warehouse.
“No arts and craft show will ever obfuscate that Israel is only regime in our region with a “secret” and “undeclared” nuclear weapons program,” Zarif said in a tweet.
He called on Israel saying it was “time to fess up and open its illegal nuclear weapons” program to international inspectors.
“How can Israel, as the only holder of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, so shamelessly accuse a country whose programs have repeatedly been declared as peaceful by the IAEA,” the UN nuclear watchdog, Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying.
He said Israel and the US stood “alone” on the world stage, as “policies forced by Netanyahu on America” had driven them both to isolation.
Zarif was responding to allegations made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday in a speech to the UN General Assembly, embellished by ample use of the colorful props that have become his trademark.
Netanyahu held up a map and a photograph of an outwardly “innocent looking compound” which he said was a secret atomic warehouse in Tehran and urged the IAEA to inspect.
“Today, I’m disclosing for the first time that Iran has another secret facility in Tehran, a secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and materiel from Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program,” he said.
Israel is main supporter of Trump’s abandonment of a landmark 2015 nuclear accord between the major powers and Iran.
The move, announced in May and accompanied by the subsequent reimposition of crippling US sanctions, has put Washington at odds with other major powers, including longstanding allies.