Israel spied on US-Iran nuclear talks: report

Israel spied on US-Iran nuclear talks: report

Israel spied on US talks with Iran on the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear programme and shared the inside information with American legislators to sabotage the crucial deal which is in the final stage of negotiation, a media report said today.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israel to penetrate the negotiations and then build a case against the "emerging terms of the deal," unnamed White House officials were quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal.

Israel, America's strategic ally in the Middle-East, quickly dismissed the report as ""incorrect and inaccurate" and denied spying on the US. However, it admitted that it obtained information by spying on Iran and by receiving intelligence from European officials.

"These allegations are utterly false. Israel does not conduct espionage against the US or Israel's other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the US and Israel," Israel's Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

"We got our intelligence from other sources, not from the US. The instruction has been clear for decades now: you don't spy on the US, directly or indirectly," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added.

In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential US briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the report said.

The espionage operation was discovered when US agencies stumbled upon communications between Israeli officials that carried details the US believed could have come only from access to the confidential talks.

The report added that more than the espionage it was the sharing of inside information with US lawmakers to drain support for the high-stakes deal that irked the White House. Many Republicans are opposed to nuclear deal with Iran.

"It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy," a senior US official said, referring to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's lobbying campaign in the US Congress earlier this month to cut support for the deal.

The report gives further credence to the souring relations between US President Barack Obama and Netanyahu, with their discord coming out in the open. The distrust between the two leaders had been growing for years but worsened after Obama launched secret nuclear talks with Iran in 2012.

The nuclear talks are aimed at putting a lid on Iran's nuclear programme to ensure it is just for peaceful civilian purposes, with enough assurances and monitoring to prevent it from producing high-grade fuel for a nuclear bomb.

Israel suspects US is ready to make too many concessions at the expense of Israeli security and any nuclear deal with Iran pose an existential threat to the Jewish state.

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