JERUSALEM, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Israel accused Iran on Tuesday of planning to arm drones supplied to Venezuela with precision-guided munitions, remarks that appeared aimed at raising American alarm as world powers try to conclude a new nuclear deal with Tehran.
Venezuela said in 2012 that Iran was helping it build drones for self-defence. The two countries, both OPEC members and long at loggerheads with Washington, also cooperate on oil exports.
Briefing U.S.-Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz showed photographs of what he described as an Iranian Mohajer UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) in Venezuela.
“Our assessments show that Iranian PGMs (precision-guided munitions) are being delivered for these UAVs and other similar models,” Gantz said.
“I can tell you that in my meetings with partners from around the world, including African and Latin American partners, I heard extreme concern about Iranian support for terrorism.”
Iran denies supplying military drones to any of its allies and has denied seeking nuclear arms or supporting terrorism. Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment on Gantz’s remarks.
Israel supported the 2018 withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and, with Washington now taking part in negotiations to revive the pact, has urged caution. Read full story
“A nuclear deal, if signed with Iran, does not mark the end of the road,” Gantz told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organisations. “We need to have offensive capabilities and a set of sanctions ready in our back pockets in case Iran violates a future agreement.”
(Reporting by Dan WilliamsAdditional reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; editing by Grant McCool)