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Shapiro: US, Israel are in coordination on Iran
By JPOST.COM STAFF AND REUTERS
19/01/2012
Dempsey arrives for talks with Netanyahu and Gantz; senior IAEA team to visit Tehran.
 
As Gen. Martin Dempsey, America’s senior military officer, arrived in Israel on Thursday for talks on Iran, US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro said Washington and Jerusalem were in complete coordination in efforts to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Dempsey is to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

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While speaking at an event in Haifa, Shapiro said the US and Israel were “focused on the same goal,” the prevention of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Sanctions to reduce the revenue the Islamic Republic receives from its oil industry were “getting stronger every day,” he said.

The US envoy alluded to the possibility of military action against Iran, saying “all other options are still available,” but he added that there was still a lot of progress to be made on stopping Iran’s nuclear program through sanctions.

Dempsey, who is expected to focus on convincing Israel to give diplomacy and sanctions more time, is scheduled to be met on Friday morning by an honor guard at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Vice Premier Dan Meridor addressed US strategic policy on Iran on Thursday, saying the United States’ leadership role within the international community is being threatened.

Speaking in an interview with Army Radio, he said. It is imperative that “international pressure on Iran continues until the country realizes that the price that it is paying [in pursuit of its nuclear agenda] is too high,” Meridor said.

In Vienna, the UN nuclear watchdog’s chief said it was his duty to warn the world about suspected Iranian activities that point to plans to develop atomic bombs, maintaining pressure on Tehran ahead of rare talks between Iran and his agency expected this month.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made clear in an interview with Financial Times Deutschland that the UN body would press for full cooperation in meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran.

“What we know suggests the development of nuclear weapons,” he was quoted as saying in comments published in German on Thursday, adding that Iran had failed to clarify allegations of military links to its nuclear program. “We want to check over everything that could have a military dimension.”

An IAEA delegation, to be headed by deputy director-general Herman Nackaerts, is expected to seek explanations for intelligence information indicating Iran has engaged in research and development applicable to nuclear weapons.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Wednesday that Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, was in touch with world powers to reopen talks that he expected to be held soon.

Washington and the EU quickly denied this, saying they are still waiting for Iran to show it wants serious negotiations addressing fears that it trying to master ways to build atom bombs behind the facade of a civilian nuclear energy program.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said after meeting Salehi that all sides were willing to resume talks but the time and place need to be settled.

“I will tell Ms. Ashton about the talks today,” he told reporters, referring to the EU foreign policy chief who represents the powers on Iran.

“We have always said we are ready for dialogue,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé told reporters in Paris. “Ashton has made concrete offers, but sadly until today Iran has not committed transparently or cooperatively to this discussion process.”

He added: “It’s for this reason that to avoid an irreparable military option we have to strengthen sanctions.”

Iran has wanted to discuss only broader international security issues, not its nuclear program, in meetings with the powers held sporadically over the past five years.

Iranian politicians said US President Barack Obama had expressed readiness to negotiate in a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“In this letter it was said that closing the Strait of Hormuz is our [the US’s] ‘red line’ and also asked for direct negotiations,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted lawmaker Ali Mottahari as saying.

Salehi added the United States should make clear that it was open for negotiations with Tehran without conditions.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

“Mr. Obama sent a letter to Iranian officials, but America has to make clear that it has good intentions and should express that it’s ready for talks without conditions,” he said.

“Out in the open they show their muscles, but behind the curtains they plead to us to sit down and talk. America has to pursue a safe and honest strategy, so we can get the notion that America this time is serious and ready.”

The United States, like other Western countries, says it is prepared to talk to Iran but only if Tehran agrees to discuss halting its enrichment of uranium. Western officials say Iran has been asking for talks “without conditions” as a stalling tactic while refusing to put its nuclear program on the table.

Washington declined to comment on whether Obama had written to Khamenei.

The stage was set for international oil sanctions against Iran when Obama signed legislation on December 31 that would freeze out any institution dealing with Iran’s central bank, making it impossible for most countries to buy Iranian crude.Under this compromise proposal, EU governments would be prohibited from making new contracts with Iran from the time the embargo was imposed, but could buy crude previously contracted. This exemption would end on July 1.

Iran’s foreign minister warned Arab neighbors on Thursday not to put themselves in a “dangerous position” by aligning themselves too closely with the United States in the escalating dispute.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, used for a third of the world’s seaborne oil trade, if pending Western moves to ban Iranian crude exports cripple its lifeblood energy sector, fanning fears of a slide into wider Middle East war.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s No. 1 oil exporter, riled Iran earlier this week when it said it could swiftly raise oil output for key customers if needed, a scenario that could materialize if Iranian exports were embargoed.

“We want peace and tranquility in the region. But some of the countries in our region, they want to direct other countries 12,000 miles away from this region,” Salehi said in English during a visit to Turkey.

The remark was an apparent reference to the alliance of Iran’s Arab neighbors with Washington, which maintains a big naval force in the Gulf and says it will keep the waterway open.

“I am calling to all countries in the region: Please don’t let yourselves be dragged into a dangerous position,” Salehi told Turkey’s NTV broadcaster.
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