'New Iran sanctions send 'important message''

In Washington, Lieberman praises US measures against Tehran's nuclear program in meetings with Clinton, McCain.

February 7, 2012 22:13
3 minute read.
FM Lieberman meets Hillary Clinton in Washington

Lieberman and Clinton. (photo credit: Shahar Azran)


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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took to the radio waves Wednesday to paint his Tuesday meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in cheery colors, saying reports of a cold meeting between the two were greatly exaggerated.

“I think that it was a very serious meeting on very sensitive issues,” Lieberman told Army Radio of the meeting that lasted – depending on who was keeping time – between 30 to 50 minutes.

This was the first Lieberman- Clinton meeting since September 2010, and only Lieberman’s second visit to Washington since he became foreign minister in 2009. It came amid widespread speculation that Lieberman has been sidelined with regards to Washington, in favor of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who goes there often.

Asked directly if it was true that he was not wanted in Washington, viewed as an obstacle to peace and that the Obama administration preferred to conduct a dialogue with Barak instead, Lieberman responded, “you don’t have to seriously relate to every foolish thing that every leper spreads in the media.”

A spokesman for Lieberman said that the meeting lasted 50 minutes, and was “very serious” and “truly good.”

“Look, I hear all the nonsense in the Israeli media, and we truly have sophisticated zealots,” Lieberman said. “But it is not important what I say, and not important what they say. What is important is what is coming out from the State Department.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, at her daily press briefing on Tuesday, characterized the meeting as a “wide-ranging discussion” and said among the topics discussed were “US-Israeli relations, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Middle East peace, Turkey, Iraq – just a little bit on each.”

Nuland said that with regard to US-Israeli ties, Clinton “reconfirmed our unshakable commitment to the relationship, not only to Israel’s security, but to Israel’s democracy, based on our shared values and the ties between our people.”

In December Clinton raised a lot of eyebrows in Israel when, at a private meeting at a Washington conference, she said she was concerned about Israel’s democracy.

Nuland also said the two “talked extensively” about the impact new sanctions taken by various countries around the world were having on Iran.

Regarding the diplomatic process, Nuland said Lieberman expressed his commitment to the two-state solution. She also said the two discussed the Hamas-Fatah Doha unity agreement, and “the fact that it’s not particularly clear what this agreement will change.” Nuland said that US Mideast envoy David Hale was in the region consulting with the parties following “a number of good preliminary rounds” of talks in Amman.

After a pause in those talks “while the parties are home and working,” Nuland said the US’s “hope, and expectation, is that the parties will come back to the table soon under the Jordanian auspices.”

After Nuland said the Clinton- Lieberman meeting lasted “half an hour, 40 minutes,” one reporter noted that if they did talk about seven subjects, that meant about four minutes per topic.

“Highly efficient humans, both of them,” Nuland quipped.

In addition to meeting Clinton, Lieberman also met with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Massachusetts); Senators John McCain (R-Arizona); Joseph Lieberman (IConnecticut); Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina); House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio); and members of the House Foreign Affairs committee, headed by Ileana Ros- Lehtinen (R-Florida), before flying to New York with meetings there with leaders of Jewish organizations.

He is scheduled back in Israel Thursday afternoon.

Lieberman, meanwhile, related to the situation in Syria during the Army Radio interview, making it clear that any alternative to Syrian President Bashar Assad would be better for Israel. Up until now, Jerusalem’s position has been that Assad is very bad, but that Israel did not really know who, or what, would come in his place.

Lieberman said that the “unholy trinity” of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah was definitely a “significant threat, and anything else would be an improvement.

“Even when taking into consideration that we have no certainty what will happen the day after [Assad], I say that in the current situation any alternative is better,” he said.

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