Israel cautiously welcomes big-power talks with Iran

JERUSALEM Wed Mar 7, 2012 8:55am EST

Iranian students hold up their hands as a sign of unity as they form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to show their support for Iran's nuclear program in Isfahan, 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran November 15, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Iranian students hold up their hands as a sign of unity as they form a human chain around the Uranium Conversion Facility (UCF) to show their support for Iran's nuclear program in Isfahan, 450 km (280 miles) south of Tehran November 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Wednesday cautiously welcomed the planned resumption of big-power nuclear talks with Iran, insisting that Tehran be denied the means to turn uranium into bomb fuel.

With Israel speaking increasingly loudly of resorting to military action to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, the talks could provide some respite in a crisis that has driven up oil prices and threatened to suck the United States into its third major war in a decade.

Tuesday's announcement of new talks followed a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United States, where President Barack Obama said the talks offered a diplomatic chance to quiet the "drums of war."

"I'm very happy that they are opening discussions," said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror.

"There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability," he told Israel Radio.

Taking up Iran's offer of talks with the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the powers sought assurances on "the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, while respecting Iran's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy."

A date and venue for the talks have yet to be agreed.

Past contacts with Tehran, whose often secretive nuclear projects have stirred foreign suspicions of a hidden bomb program, stumbled in disputes over the scale of its uranium enrichment and stockpiling of the fissile material, which can power energy reactors and, if purified further, provide fuel for warheads.

Ahead of his White House meeting with Obama on Monday, Netanyahu demanded Iran's enrichment stop and its uranium with a higher than 3.5 percent purity, the level used for electricity generation, be removed.

Speaking separately to Israel's Army Radio, Netanyahu's cabinet secretary, Zvi Hauser, said those terms held.

Uranium bomb fuel must be enriched to 90 percent. Iran has significantly shortened any such leap in the future by enriching some of its uranium to 20 percent, saying this concentration was required to produce medical isotopes.

Netanyahu has also said Iran must dismantle an underground enrichment facility near the city of Qom, which experts say is designed to survive any air strikes, part of what Israel calls a "zone of immunity" being sought by Tehran.

Israel, widely believed to be the region's only nuclear power, has threatened to attack Iran's nuclear sites if they deem diplomacy at a dead end.

While not ruling out a U.S. military option, Obama has urged Israel not to hasten to war, saying Washington's interests were also at stake.

Iran's approach to the six world powers for talks comes as it suffers unprecedented economic pain from expanding oil and financial sanctions.

"It should be clear that without a real military alternative, the Iranians will not relent in the negotiations. And without there being a serious alternative, they will not enter the negotiations, and in any event there has to be readiness for the negotiations failing," Amidror said.

Netanyahu's spokesman Liran Dan said there had been no U.S. effort to veto or endorse any military action by Israel on Iran.

"A red light was not given. And if we're already talking about colors, then a green light was not given either," he said in remarks to both radio stations. "If there are red lines being discussed, they are not between us and the Americans, but rather, between the international community and Iran."

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Comments (17)
Invictuss wrote:
“Netanyahu has also said Iran must dismantle an underground enrichment facility near the city of Qom”..dude Iran is sovereign country and can do whatever they want for peaceful purposes. I say Israel removes some of its illegal settlements and give back some of the land to its rightful owners the Palestinians, as well as give its nukes?!? What do you say then we can call it even?!?

Mar 07, 2012 8:34am EST  --  Report as abuse
Hopefully this is the result of the recent talks between Netanyahu and Obama. I really hope Obama told Netanyahu that if Israel attacks Iran it will screw-up Obama’s hope for re-election and so Obama can’t promise to help cleanup Israel’s mess. Plus with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) gaining more regional power, the Iran war scenario is thankfully losing traction. No war with Iran!

Mar 07, 2012 9:04am EST  --  Report as abuse
txgadfly wrote:
To be clear:

US foreign policy, including wars and non-neutral engagement in wars, should be only made in the interests of the American people as a whole. A small minority of foreign nationals, whether or not they hold US citizenship, should not be handed the ability to drag the country to war. Such people should be de-naturalized and deported and foreign governments which encourage their agents to become involved in the internal politics of the USA should be declared hostile.

To be blunt, American Israelis should not be permitted to donate to American political organizations until the renounce allegiance to Israel under oath. Why let foreign agents into our politics? Did we run Auschwitz? My memory is that we were on the other side. So why do we permit war loving Israel, a country that does not share our commitment to one man, one vote democracy and universal sufferage, or to civil and voting rights, to run our Government?? They have never fought by our side in any war. They just demand unquestioning obedience to their commands, and all our politicians obey. Because we permit them to bribe our “public servants”.

Tear up Israel’s blank check right now. They will lead us to nuclear war and destruction.

Mar 07, 2012 10:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
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