JERUSALEM -- The Israeli government reacted warily Tuesday to the announcement from the U.N. nuclear agency that it had reached a tentative agreement with Iran allowing for the inspection of the country's nuclear facilities.
"Israel is extremely skeptical about this whole business because of Iran's history and record, where they have had a policy of almost routine deception when it comes to their relationship with" the International Atomic Energy Agency, said a government official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
"They are serial violators of their agreements," the official said, noting that Iran previously try to hide the existence of nuclear facilities in Qom and Natanz from the IAEA.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said Tuesday that he had reached a deal with Iran on probing its suspected work on nuclear weapons and that the agreement will "be signed quite soon," the Associated Press reported.
Amano said some details still needed to be worked out but that Iranian officials said those points would not stand in the way of signing the deal.
Amano made the announcement in Vienna after returning from a visit to Tehran.
U.S. officials, along with officials from five other major powers, are scheduled to meet this week in Baghdad with Iranian officials to discuss Tehran's nuclear program, which the Islamic Republic insists is devoted to peaceful purposes but which others suspect is a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
The U.S. and its allies have imposed punishing sanctions on Iran's economy to force concessions such as opening the nuclear program up to international inspectors and limiting the enrichment of uranium to levels far short of those needed to produce weapons.
Israel has long feared that it would be the target of a nuclear weapon fired by Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not react publicly Tuesday to the IAEA announcement, but said Monday that Israel wants to see Iran halt all uranium enrichment, remove previously refined uranium from its stockpile and dismantle the facility at Qoms.
Israeli Homeland Security Minister Matan Vilnai told Israel Radio that the tentative agreement would have little effect on the country's threat to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
"All options are still on the table ... and keeping them on the table is the only way to make any progress in negotiations with Iran," he said.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio, "I hope this agreement is different and that it really does halt enrichment and any advancement toward the ability to produce nuclear weapons. If it does, this is a welcome agreement. But given past experience, we are suspicious until reality proves otherwise."
-- Edmund Sanders
Photo: International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano, center, speaks to the media on Tuesday upon his arrival in Vienna from Tehran. Credit: Dieter Nagl / AFP/Getty Images