US Denies Speaking to Iran About Prisoner Swap
US Denies Speaking to Iran About Prisoner Swap

An Israeli official says an Iranian academic with ties to Iran's nuclear program has requested asylum in Israel.

Israeli Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara said Saturday the Iranian academic is awaiting a decision on the asylum request in a country "friendly" to Israel.

Kara did not identify the academic or the country.  He said Israel will do all it can to help people who want to remove what he called the strategic and nuclear threat posed by Iran.

Israel, the United States and other Western nations accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons.  Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

The Washington Post quotes U.S. officials as saying a growing number of Iranian nuclear experts are defecting or leaking information to the West about Iran's nuclear program.

In a report published Sunday, the newspaper quotes current and former officials in the United States and Europe as saying some of the most significant new material has come from scientists and others with access to Iran's military programs.

The Washington Post says U.S. officials have acknowledged that Iranian nuclear physicist Shahram Amiri defected to the West after disappearing on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia last June.

Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence because Iranian leaders have called for Israel's destruction.  Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed nation in the region, but it refuses to confirm or deny possession of a nuclear arsenal.

Former Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu appealed to President Barack Obama to set him free from an Israeli jail since he wants to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear whistleblower has completed his full 18-year prison sentence for leaking classified information about Israel's nuclear capacity to the London-based Sunday Times in 1986.

Israel still bans Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press and others as a condition for his release from jail.

Ayoub Kara

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