IAEA head pays quiet visit to Israel
Yukia Amano, who late last year replaced Mohammed ElBaradei as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), arrived quietly in Israel on Monday for a two-day visit as the guest of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The purpose of the visit, which was unannounced beforehand, is believed to be to facilitate relations between Israel and the IAEA.
This is the first visit to Israel by an agency head since ElBaradei was here in 2004.
Amano, of Japan, is scheduled to meet President Shimon Peres, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor (who is also in charge of atomic energy), top officials of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, and the heads of the strategic affairs department in the Foreign Ministry.
He is not scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Amano's accession to the head of the IAEA was greeted in December with a sigh of relief in Jerusalem, which had grown frustrated by what it felt was ElBaradei's clumsy and politically motivated handling of the Iranian nuclear dossier.
By contrast, Amano is seen in Jerusalem as both "more professional" and "more balanced."
In a related development, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was interviewed Monday by Israel Radio in Farsi, and said that Israel harbored no enmity toward the Iranian people.
"We have a great deal of respect for the Iranian people and yearn to work together with them to bring about a better reality in the region," he said in a message broadcast to Iran.
"The problem is with the regime of the ayatollahs and how it is run, especially on the nuclear issue and the blatant violation of human rights inside Iran."