U.S. assures Israel that core Iran sanctions still in place

JERUSALEM Thu Dec 5, 2013 4:04pm EST

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a joint news conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address a joint news conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, December 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that core sanctions against Iran would remain in place despite its interim nuclear deal with world powers.

The November 24 accord in Geneva was denounced as a "historic mistake" by Netanyahu, increasing strains in an alliance already marked by his past disputes with U.S. President Barack Obama over strategy on Iran and the Palestinians.

Visiting Israel as the talks with Tehran gathered pace, Kerry met an irate Netanyahu. But they worked to affirm their friendship on Thursday: Their offices issued pictures of them smiling in private conversation, and while briefing reporters afterwards Kerry referred to Netanyahu by his nickname "Bibi".

Israel argues an easing of some sanctions on Iran before it abandons nuclear projects with bomb-making potential risks snowballing as foreign business partners rush into the breach.

"Steps must be taken to prevent a further erosion of sanctions," said Netanyahu, who has described a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic as a mortal menace to the Jewish state. Iran says it enriching uranium only for peaceful nuclear energy.

Kerry said Washington would confer closely with its Israeli ally about crafting a permanent Iran agreement after the six-month confidence-building period laid out by the Geneva deal under which Iran will curb sensitive aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from sanctions.

"I can't emphasize enough that Israel's security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda and the United States will do everything in its power to make certain that Iran's nuclear program, the program's weaponisation possibilities, is terminated," Kerry said.

GOING SLOW ON SANCTIONS

The Obama administration was warning any other country against "moving ahead of sanctions" in trading with Iran, Kerry said.

"The fundamental sanctions regime of oil and banking remains absolutely in place. It is not changed. And we will be stepping up our effort of enforcement through the Treasury Department and through the appropriate agencies of the United States," Kerry said.

Israel's fierce opposition about the Geneva deal have raised speculation - fuelled by regular public hints from Netanyahu - that it might carry out long-threatened unilateral strikes against Iran.

But while Israel is widely assumed to have the region's only nuclear arsenal, many independent analysts believe it lacks the conventional clout to deliver lasting damage to the distant, dispersed and well-defended Iranian facilities.

The Israelis are also unlikely to go it alone as their most important foreign partner is engaged in diplomacy with Tehran.

Hoping to stay Israel's hand, the Americans have invested heavily in its strategic defenses. Kerry said that during his visit he hoped to tour Palmahim air base, near Tel Aviv, where Israel's command-and-control centre for the Arrow ballistic missile interceptor and other systems is located.

"I want to see first-hand the remarkable ballistic missile defense technologies in place that our nation has spent over 20 years building with our friends here in Israel," he said.

"The advancement of these programs in recent years, I think, is a reflection of President Obama's and his administration's strong commitment, unwavering commitment to Israel's security."

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (19)
JamVee wrote:
The Idiots are now removing some of our most debilitating sanctions against Iran. The very penalties that finally drove them to the negotiating table will be removed in return for what? Iran’s “promise” to kick the can down the road AGAIN. It’s a giant victory for Iran and an insult to the US and our allies!

But Obama/Kerry and the State Department is bragging that it’s a huge victory . . . Maybe they didn’t actually read it? Kinda like ObamaCare?

Dec 05, 2013 8:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
unionwv wrote:
The latest “Assurance” by this incompetent administration is just another item on the long list of unreliable PR blurbs.

Dec 05, 2013 9:03am EST  --  Report as abuse
Rich_F wrote:
this is nothing but another 6 month delay in addressing the real issues. iran won’t meet whatever conditions after the 6 months while getting $9 billion in funding and will come up with another stall tactic in the interim all while continued their march to completing their enrichment work.

the rest of the world is taking notice that the “Leader of the Free World” now led by Obama is all talk and no walk. Obama will avoid armed conflict at any and all costs and everyone knows it so other countries are starting to flex their muscles. our foreign policy hasn’t been in such bad shape since the Carter years.

Dec 05, 2013 9:21am EST  --  Report as abuse
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