U.S., Israel differ on how to resolve Iran nuclear issue

ROME Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:53pm EDT

1 of 3. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Villa Taverna in Rome October 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Claudio Peri/Pool

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ROME (Reuters) - U.S. and Israeli officials differed over Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday as Israel called for its effective dismantlement and the United States suggested better safeguards could assure that it is peaceful rather than military in nature.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke as they began talks that were also expected to cover Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations but appeared likely to be overshadowed by Iran.

Hints of a possible U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, including President Barack Obama's phone call with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and revived nuclear talks between Tehran and six major powers, have unnerved Arab states and Israel, which see any potential Iranian nuclear arms program as a direct threat.

"Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn't have centrifuges (for) enrichment, they shouldn't have a plutonium heavy-water plant, which is used only for nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told reporters as he and Kerry began what was expected to be several hours of talks.

"They should get rid of (their stockpiled) fissile material, and they shouldn't have underground nuclear facilities, (which are) underground for one reason - for military purposes." He called Iran's program the region's foremost security problem.

The Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium solely for electricity and medical treatments, not nuclear weapons. But its past concealment of sensitive activities from U.N. inspectors and continued restrictions on monitoring have raised suspicions.

"CRYSTAL CLEAR" STANDARD

Kerry, whose aides are exploring a diplomatic solution to rein in Iran's nuclear activity, took a tack different from Netanyahu, suggesting Iran could show its program was peaceful by adhering to international standards followed by other nations.

"We will pursue a diplomatic initiative but with eyes wide open, aware that it will be vital for Iran to live up to the standards that other nations that have nuclear programs live up to as they prove that those programs are indeed peaceful," he said as he and Netanyahu began what were expected to be several hours of talks at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Rome.

"We will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear, undeniably clear, fail-safe to the world that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program," he told reporters.

The United States has refused to rule out the possibility of taking military action against Iran. But U.S. officials say they wish to test every avenue to resolve the issue before going down that path, which could destabilize the Middle East.

Six global powers and Iran held talks last week in Geneva on ways towards a diplomatic deal, their first such negotiations since the June election of Rouhani, a relative moderate, opened doors for compromise after years of escalating confrontation.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States are due to hold a second round of these talks with Iran on November 7-8, also in Geneva.

Iran cites a right to refine uranium for peaceful purposes under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), a 1970 global pact to prevent the spread of nuclear arms.

But the United States has said Iran does not automatically have this right under international law because, it argues, Tehran is in violation of its obligations under counter-proliferation safeguards. A series of U.N. Security Council resolutions since 2006 has demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment and heavy water related activities.

Iran is building a heavy-water research reactor near the town of Arak, which when operational could yield plutonium and give Iran a potential second route to making fissile material for nuclear bombs, in addition to its enrichment of uranium.

Western experts say, and some diplomats privately acknowledge, that it is no longer realistic to expect Iran to halt all enrichment-related activities, since the Islamic Republic has sharply expanded such work in the last seven years and it is seen as a source of national pride and prestige.

Instead, they say, any deal should set strict, verifiable limits on the number of centrifuges that Iran can have and on the production of low-enriched uranium.

Kerry made clear that his talks with Netanyahu would also cover Egypt, where the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in early July, Syria's civil war and the renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Those talks resumed on July 29 after a three-year hiatus. The United States has said they aim to yield a peace deal within nine months, of which nearly three months have already passed.

The core issues in the more than six-decade dispute include borders, the future of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank where Palestinians seek statehood, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

(Writing by Arshad Mohammed, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (33)
BanglaFirst wrote:
In fact Iran is more friendly to Jews than Saudis so US should go ahead and do what is necessary for its security and trade. Iran coming out of the cold will be a boon for US, EU and Turkey. So it is a win win situation for all concerned.

Oct 23, 2013 10:28am EDT  --  Report as abuse
ChangeWhat wrote:
I’m confused, since 2007 Iran has reached the appropriate levels for what is stating it wants nuclear power for: Energy and Medical research.

So why six years later they still haven’t implemented the actual use of electricity nor have they began their medical research? Instead they continue to enrich further which only has one purpose and that is a nuclear weapon.

I really could care less about Israel due to their lobbying and destruction of the U.S. but they are in their rights to bomb Iran.

Oct 23, 2013 10:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Obama, Kerry & Hillary aren’t going to do a damn thing about Iran since they’re too busy trying to recreate the US into a stranger version of the former Soviet Union.

Israel, Netanyahu & whatever other allies it has (Saudi Arabia, Turkey) will be forced to proceed with airstrikes on their own and see where the chips fall.

It seems the US had its boot on Irans neck, but allowed Iran to yell uncle and derail the whole process, much like Obama did when allowing Russia to save Assad.

Oct 23, 2013 11:03am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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