US official: 'Iran isolated'

Dan Meridor: The only game in town is Iran-US – who wins, who loses.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
April 13, 2010 15:53
April 2010 Nuclear Summit in Washington

Nuclear Summit 311. (photo credit: .)

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration convened a landmark Nuclear Security Summit on Tuesday aimed at preventing nuclear material from reaching terrorists, as well as sending a message to Iran that it faced an international community increasingly united in opposition to its nuclear program.

As 47 nations gathered to support and offer concrete steps in securing nuclear material, and were set to issue a communiqué outlining their shared vision later on Tuesday, US President Barack Obama also used his bilateral meetings to push for consensus on pressuring Teheran. China, for one, gave some signs of moving toward the American position following its meeting with the president ahead of the summit opening.


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“This conference, while clearly not being about Iran, demonstrates how isolated Iran actually is, when you have 47 countries represented here, all of whom are committed to abiding by their international obligations,” a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post. “It sends a very clear message to countries like Iran that this is the future, this is the world order that everyone wants to see.”


He added, “They have had an opportunity to follow through with meeting their international obligations but have created considerable doubt about the peaceful intent of their nuclear program and therefore are going to be facing increasing international pressure.”

The head of the Israeli delegation, Intelligence Agencies Minister and Minister for Atomic Affairs Dan Meridor, told the Post that “Iran is at the back of the minds of many of the people here. It’s not the issue that we’re dealing with, but Iran is here in thinking, Iran is mentioned from time to time.”

He added, “The only game in town is Iran-US. Who wins, who loses. We need America and its allies to win, or else the world order changes. It’s a grievous development. It’s not good. I think it’s clear to most people here.”

Meridor, who is also deputy prime minister, is representing Israel in the conference after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled suddenly on Thursday.



Israeli officials were quoted at the time as saying he pulled out over concerns that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim countries would seek to make an issue of Israel’s widely reported but undeclared nuclear arsenal and urge that it sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But Meridor, who denied that there were concerns on this front, said that with mere hours left in the conference, the subject of Israel’s nuclear capabilities hadn’t been raised during the speeches made by delegates.


“No one attacked us. We’re part of the international community. We’re dealing with an important issue of securing the international community against nuclear terrorism. We are a country that has something to say on this issue,” he said. “In the meeting with the president, in the meetings with other people, speaking here, listening here, the atmosphere is very cordial.”


At the conclusion of the conference, however, Saudi Arabia released its written statement for the record with language than included criticism of Israel.

“Israel's possession of nuclear weapons constitutes a fundamental obstacle to the achievement of security and stability in the Middle Eastern region,” the statement charged. “The justifications that it has cited for its acquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction, and especially nuclear weapons, are manifestly and totally inconsistent with its alleged desire to achieve peace with the peoples and states of the region.”

Meridor, along with other heads of delegations, met briefly with Obama before the conference started on Monday night. The event is the largest such gathering of world leaders in the US since the founding of the UN, and the first time a summit on this scale has been convened on this topic.


“He spoke to me and he said he was sorry the prime minister couldn’t come and maybe the timing wasn’t optimal, and then we moved on,” Meridor said of his conversation with Obama, but wouldn’t elaborate when pressed by reporters.


“What we’ve seen so far at these meetings and plenary sessions is that the leaders have been extremely focused on the issues on the table and really trying to see how we promote greater international coordination,” the American official said, expressing satisfaction with the tenor of the conversation. “Really, it’s gone fairly much according to script.”


Meridor also said that criticism of Israel’s nuclear reactors had not been raised in a conference devoted to nuclear security because of the safeguards that Israel employs.


“Nobody here approached me about the safety of Israel’s nuclear facilities because everyone knows that we have very high standards,” he said.


However, the issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process featured prominently in talks he had on the sidelines of the conference with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and with Swedish and Norwegian leaders, with the message focusing on the need to get negotiations going as swiftly as possible.


Most American meetings, however, featured the issue of Iran more prominently. The US on Monday night held an impromptu meeting of the P5+1, the six world powers leading efforts to deal with Iran’s nuclear policy, as well as the one-on-one meeting Obama held with Chinese President Hu Jintao.


Following the meeting, White House national security official Jeff Bader said the Chinese were “prepared to work with us” as the two countries consult with the rest of the UN Security Council to draft a new round of sanctions against Iran.


Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu was also quoted as saying the US and China “share the same overall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue,” though later Chinese officials made comments more critical of sanctions.


Meridor described “an atmosphere here that says that something is moving with the Chinese approach.”


The Chinese statement produced for the summit spoke of the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, which Obama himself articulated a year ago and referred to in opening Tuesday’s morning session.


He also spoke of the paramount threat of nuclear weapons being acquired by terrorist networks like al-Qaida, which he accused of making attempts to do so.

“If they ever succeeded, they would surely use it,” he warned. “Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability.”


Israel’s statement included an allusion to Iran as well as to terrorist groups, though it did not reference the country by name.


“The greatest threat to peace is that the world’s most dangerous regimes and the world’s most dangerous terror groups would acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons,” the statement said.

The “alarming increase” the chance that this threat would materialize of recent months, according to the statement, “has been magnified by the possibility that terror supporting states developing nuclear weapons might give these weapons and other nuclear materials to their non-state proxies in the hope of avoiding culpability for their actions.”

The statement noted that “Israel acutely understands this threat because a regime that illicitly seeks nuclear weapons and openly calls for Israel's destruction is supporting terror proxies that continuously attack Israel's civilians with missiles, rockets and other means.”


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