US defence chief in Israel amid Iran nuclear talks

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has arrived in Israel on the first visit by a senior representative of President Joe Biden’s administration, whose stance on Iran has worried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Israel views the United States as a “full partner” and will work closely with its ally to ensure any new diplomatic accord with Iran does not compromise regional security, Defence Minister Benny Gantz told his US counterpart on Sunday.

‘Accident’

In the latest breach of its undertakings in the troubled agreement, Tehran announced on Saturday that it started up advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.

President Hassan Rouhani inaugurated a cascade of 164 IR-6 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades – of 30 IR-5 and 30 IR-6S devices respectively – at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.

An “accident” took place at Natanz on Sunday but caused no casualties or damage, the Fars News Agency reported.

Iran’s Press TV said an electricity problem had caused an incident at the Natanz underground site, without casualties or pollution.

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