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Netanyahu: Iran has not stopped its development of nuclear weapons

By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |   Jan. 17, 2016 at 8:57 AM
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JERUSALEM, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office condemned the lifting of sanctions on Iran on Saturday, saying Iran has not stopped working to develop nuclear weapons and will continue to destabilize the Middle East.

The International Atomic Energy Agency announced Saturday evening that Iran completed the steps necessary to implement the nuclear deal.

The Israeli Prime Minister's Office reacted negatively to the announcement, following contentious disagreement by Netanyahu's administration since before formal negotiations began in July.

"Israel will continue to monitor Iran's negative activities and will take all necessary measures to maintain its security and defend itself," the prime minister's office said. "Iran has not abandoned its aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons and continues to destabilize the Middle East and spread terrorism throughout the world."

Under the deal, Iran will dial back its nuclear program and allow the IAEA to monitor the program for years to come, ensuring that Iran does not move towards nuclear weapons production.

In exchange, Iran will have access to $50 billion in long-frozen assets in foreign banks, and the ability to trade oil in the global marketplace. Some sanctions, however, will remain in place.

Netanyahu's office warned that unless Iran is properly punished for each violation it conducts, the country "will surmise that it can continue to develop nukes, destabilize the region and spread terror."

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a U.S. presidential candidate, also condemned the lifting of sanctions, stating the deal's implementation provided Iran "much-needed funds to expand its regional aggression and its support to terrorist groups like Hezbollah."

Rubio vowed to "undo" the deal and restore sanctions on Iran if he wins the presidency, adding that an improved Iranian economy will help defend the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which will further grow the Islamic State.

"The nuclear accord will subsidize Assad's murder machine, the greatest single recruitment tool for the Islamic State," Rubio said. "Fueling Iran's regional ambitions and its support for Assad ... will only cause ISIS to grow stronger, not weaker."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has long defended the negotiations with Iran he helped lead.

"Today marks the moment the Iran Deal has transitioned from ambitious promises on paper to measurable actions in practice," Kerry wrote on Saturday. "Each of the pathways Iran had toward enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon has been verifiably closed down."

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