- - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister voiced skepticism Tuesday over an agreement by Iran to open up its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors, saying the Iranians are trying to create a “deception of progress” to stave off international pressure.

The cool reception from Defense Minister Ehud Barak signaled that Israel will not ease up pressure on the international community to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel repeatedly has hinted it is ready to use force if it concludes international diplomacy has failed to stop the Iranians.

Mr. Barak spoke shortly after the U.N.’s nuclear chief announced he had reached a preliminary deal to allow his inspectors to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Iran is secretly developing nuclear arms.

The announcement came a day before Iran and six world powers were to meet in Baghdad for another round of negotiations.

“It looks like the Iranians are trying to reach a technical agreement that will create a deception of progress in talks in order to reduce the pressure ahead of talks tomorrow in Baghdad and postpone harshening of sanctions,” Mr. Barak said during a discussion at the Defense Ministry, according to a statement from his office.

Israel believes that a clear bar should be set for Iran that won’t leave room for any window or crack for Iran to proceed toward military nuclear capability,” Mr. Barak said. “It’s forbidden to make any concessions to Iran. World powers demands must be clear and unequivocal.”

Mr. Barak held out the possibility that Iran be allowed to keep a “symbolic amount” of low-enriched uranium for medical or research purposes, but only if it is under “strict” international supervision.


Hunger striker appears in wheelchair at hearing

MANAMA — A jailed Bahraini activist who has been on a hunger strike since February has made his first public appearance in months, attending a court hearing in a wheelchair.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja appeared frail but spoke in a clear voice as he and others claimed Tuesday that they suffered abuses and torture in custody and demanded their release.

Mr. al-Khawaja and seven other activists were sentenced to life in prison last year by a military-run court. It was part of crackdowns by Bahrain’s Sunni rulers against a Shiite-led uprising calling for a greater political voice in the Gulf kingdom.

A civilian court retrial was ordered in April for a total of 21 people convicted of anti-state crimes.

The court adjourned the case until May 29.

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