Netanyahu voiced skepticism on Sunday over talks with Iran, scheduled to begin in Istanbul on Saturday between the six Western powers and Tehran.
In a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti in his Caesarea home, Netanyahu said that Israel will follow the talks closely "since Iran is using them to delay and deceive."
Netanyahu emphasized that Israel's stance over what the West should demand vis-à-vis Tehran's nuclear program has not changed. He reiterated the three demands he made during his visit in Canada last month – that Iran dismantle a nuclear facility near the city of Qom, complete halt uranium enrichment and remove all material enriched above 3.5 percent from the country.Netanyahu's comments come as the U.S. media reported that President Barack Obama said he intends to present Tehran with a number of conditions. According to the New York Times, the U.S. presented Iran with similar conditions to those of Netanyahu – closing the facility in Qom, stopping uranium enrichment and transferring enriched uranium out of Iran. In return, the Iranians would be able to use nuclear technology for civilian use such as energy and medicine.
The Obama administration and its European allies plan to open new negotiations with Iran by demanding the immediate closing and ultimate dismantling of a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain, according to American and European diplomats.They are also calling for a halt in the production of uranium fuel that is considered just a few steps from bomb grade, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of the country, the diplomats said.That negotiating position will be the opening move in what President Obama has called Iran’s “last chance” to resolve its nuclear confrontation with the United Nations and the West diplomatically. The hard-line approach would require the country’s military leadership to give up the Fordo enrichment plant outside the holy city of Qum, and with it a huge investment in the one facility that is most hardened against airstrikes.The outcome of the talks — or their breakdown — could well determine whether Washington will be able to quiet Israeli threats that it could take military action this year.But talking with Iran’s leaders also carries considerable political risk for Mr. Obama, with Iran emerging as one of the few major foreign policy issues in the presidential campaign.If Iran rejects American and European demands to immediately halt the most dangerous elements of its program, Mr. Obama could face a crisis in the Persian Gulf by early summer in the midst of his re-election bid.European allies, especially the French and the British, say they are concerned that Mr. Obama will want to keep the negotiations going, however unproductive they might be, through the November presidential election to avoid the possibility of a military strike if the talks fail.Israel and some European leaders fear that would play into what they perceive as Iran’s strategy to use the talks to buy time while its centrifuges keep spinning.
With critical talks on the Iranian nuclear program set to begin Friday, Tehran already rejected two key demands on Sunday by the world’s powers: Closing the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility near Qom and stopping the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent.Fereydoon Abbasi Davani, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, called the Western diplomats’ demands “irrational,” according to AFP.
Getting Iran to suspend its high-level uranium enrichment and close the bunker at Fordow are “near-term priorities” for the United States and its allies, a senior US official said on Sunday, confirming an earlier New York Times report.
Those priorities overlap with conditions – first published last week in The Jerusalem Post – that Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlined in a statement he released Sunday.While Israel hopes the talks will succeed in stopping Iran’s nuclear pursuit, there is general skepticism within the defense establishment that Tehran will cave in to the pressure and suspend all of its nuclear activity.Beyond the nuclear problem, Liberman said, Iran also radiates a message of violence and complete disregard for international norms, evident over the last few months in the violent takeover of the British embassy in Tehran, the plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in the US, support for Assad’s ruthless regime and the death sentence imposed on a Muslim who converted to Christianity.
Palestinian Authority terrorists in Gaza launched another attack at southern Israel Sunday morning.Two short-range Qassam exploded in fields located in the Sdot HaNegev Regional Council district area, near Netivot.An Israel Air Force drone preempted a terrorist cell from launching a missile attack against Israel from Gaza on Saturday.Also on Saturday, the IDF announced it had located an unexploded Grad Katyusha missile near Eilat, two days after an attack was launched against the southern city of Eilat.
It was the second of three missiles that were fired at the Red Sea