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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday called for international support to tackle Iran’s build-up of nuclear technology and its new squadrons of drone attackers that are wreaking havoc in the Arabian Peninsula.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Bennett also launched a personal attack on Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, saying the “butcher” had in the 1980s feasted on cream cakes after overseeing the killings of Iranian civilians.
“Iran seeks to dominate the region — and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella,” said Mr Bennett.
“For the past three decades, Iran has spread its carnage and destruction around the Middle East, country after country … Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza.”
This past year, Iran has launched a “new deadly terror unit” in the form of “swarms of killer UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] armed with lethal weapons that can attack any place any time".
“Iran has already used these deadly UAVs — called Shahed 136 — to attack Saudi Arabia, US targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea, killing a Brit and a Romanian.”
He also launched a personal diatribe against Mr Raisi, highlighting the killings of some 5,000 Iranian activists during a political crackdown in 1988 and other historic abuses against civilians.
“His nickname is the Butcher of Tehran because that's exactly what he did — butchered his own people,” said Mr Bennett.
“One of the witnesses of this massacre stated in her testimony that when Raisi would finish a round of murder, he'd throw a party, pocketing the money of those he just executed … and then would sit down to eat cream cakes.”
Mr Bennett's fierce assault on Iran was reminiscent of the UN speeches made by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who took a similarly tough line on Iran's reported pursuit of nuclear weapons — something that Tehran denies.
Mr Bennett also praised Israel’s recent deals to normalise relations with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco and encouraged UN members to follow Israel’s anti-Covid-19 strategy by rolling out vaccine booster shots.
Israel has trumpeted its normalisation of diplomatic relations with the UAE and Bahrain, brokered by Washington last year, as paving the way for economic co-operation and a regional stand against shared foe Iran.
Mr Bennett met senior ministers from the UAE and Bahrain in New York on Sunday before his UN address, his office said.
During his meeting with Bahrain’s Foreign Minster Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani and UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalifa Shaheen Al Marar, Mr Bennett said Israel hoped to further boost ties with both nations.
“We are stable and we believe in this relationship and we want to expand it as much as possible,” Mr Bennett said in a statement released by his office.
US President Joe Biden has started indirect talks with Iran over reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that his predecessor, Donald Trump, unilaterally pulled the US out of in 2018, reimposing sanctions that have destroyed Iran’s economy.
Iran's foreign minister on Friday said talks would start again “very soon”, but gave no specific date. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday urged the US to play a “more active” role in resuming stalled talks towards reviving the 2015 nuclear accord.