US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was hopeful that the “window for
diplomacy is cracking open with Iran,” even as he assured American Jews that his
government would take Israel’s security needs into account.
on Sunday via satellite from London to the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee that is holding a two-day summit in California.
“But I want you
to know that our eyes are open, too. While we seek a peaceful resolution
to Iran’s nuclear program, words must be matched with actions,” Kerry said. “In
any engagement with Iran, we are mindful of Israel’s security needs.”
Israeli official, however, warned on Sunday that Iran’s latest refusal to send
out of the country its enriched uranium – used for the production of nuclear
weapons – showed that Tehran was continuing with its weapons program.
advance of the six-party talks in Geneva scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday,
which aim to find a diplomatic solution to prevent a nuclear Iran, Tehran
signaled that it could be flexible on some of its atomic
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who will
participate in the Geneva talks, told his country’s state television on Sunday,
“Of course we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of
[uranium] enrichment, but the shipping of materials out of the country is our
Israel has insisted that Iran must remove all enriched uranium
from its country and dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities.
fears that the international community will be assuaged by a conciliatory tone
out of Tehran and, as a trust-building measure, would ease some of the economic
sanctions against Iran.
Israel believes that Iran has been placating the
West in the last few months as a result of the sanctions, and that the
international community should continue to pressure Tehran economically until it
dismantles its nuclear weapons program.
In advance of the Geneva talks,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has spoken with international leaders such as
French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron. He
has given many interviews to the international media.
“The prime minister
said all along that Iran will try to come along with ‘cosmetic concessions’ that
appear to be of significance, but that actually in no way prevent Iran from
attaining nuclear weapons,” an Israeli official said on Sunday.
a game Iran is playing,” the official said.
He added that over the next
few days, Netanyahu would be “working the phones” to get his message
Netanyahu is expected to address the issue of Iran when he speaks
before the Knesset plenum on Monday at the start of its opening
Kerry discussed Iran on Sunday when he met in London with EU
foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
As of Sunday night, Kerry was not
expected to attend the six-power talks that include the US, China, Germany,
France, Great Britain and Russia.
US Under Secretary of State for
Political Affairs Wendy R. Sherman led a delegation of officials that headed to
Geneva on Sunday to participate in the talks.
The US team includes James
Timbie, senior adviser to the undersecretary of state for arms control and
international security; Puneet Talwar, senior director for Iran, Iraq and the
Gulf States on the White House national security staff; and Richard Nephew,
principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department, a US
The talks will be the first since the election of Iranian
President Hassan Rouhani, who has tried to improve relations with the West to
pave the way for lifting economic sanctions.
Rouhani’s election in June
to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has raised hopes of a negotiated solution to a
decade-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program that could otherwise trigger a
new war in the volatile Middle East.
Araqchi’s comments on Sunday may
disappoint Western officials, who want Iran to ship out uranium enriched to a
fissile concentration of 20 percent, a short technical step away from
However, Araqchi was less hardline about other
areas of uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is for peaceful nuclear fuel
purposes but the West fears may be aimed at developing nuclear weapons
In negotiations since early 2012, world powers have demanded
that Iran suspend 20% enrichment, send some of its existing uranium stockpiles
abroad and shutter the Fordow underground site, where most higher-grade
enrichment is done.
In return, they offered to lift sanctions on trade in
gold, precious metals and petrochemicals, but Iran – which wants oil and banking
restrictions to be removed – has dismissed that offer. It says it needs
20%-enriched uranium for a medical research reactor.
statement may be “the usual pre-negotiation posturing,” according to Middle East
specialist Shashank Joshi at the Royal United Services Institute in
“It is easy to imagine a compromise whereby Iran would ship out
only some of its uranium, allowing the negotiating team to claim a victory.
There are many potential compromises that will be explored,” Joshi
Cliff Kupchan, a director and Middle East analyst at consulting
firm Eurasia Group, took a similar line, saying Iran was seeking to gain
leverage ahead of negotiations.
“Still, it is sobering that a lead
Iranian negotiator is setting redlines so early. These are going to be tough
Since the Islamic Republic started making 20%-enriched uranium
gas in 2010, it has produced more than the 240-250 kg. needed for one atomic
bomb, which Israel has suggested may provoke it to take military action against
Iran has kept its stockpile below this figure by converting some
of it into oxide powder for reactor fuel, potentially buying more time for
diplomacy, UN watchdog reports show.
But it has also amassed stocks of
low-enriched uranium gas that experts say would be enough for several bombs if
processed much further to weapons-grade material.
It has also sharply
expanded its enrichment capacity in recent years.
acknowledge it may no longer be realistic to expect Iran to suspend all such
work, as demanded by a series of UN Security Council resolutions since
Instead, they say, Iran’s enrichment capacity should be scaled back
in order to make it more difficult for the country to launch any weapons bid
without being detected in time.
R. Scott Kemp, an assistant professor of
nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
said that merely capping Iran’s nuclear program was unlikely to provide enough
confidence in the West.
“Some rollback of the program...is really
the only path to confidence and stability,” Kemp wrote in a blog last
David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International
Security think tank, told a US Senate committee in early October, referring to
machines used to refine uranium: “Any future nuclear agreement must include a
limit on the number and type of centrifuges Iran can install.”
contributed to this report.