Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that a recent report in The New York Times claiming that Iran and the US were holding direct one-on-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear program did not point to an important development.Speaking to the 103 FM radio station, the defense minister said, “There either were or weren’t contacts...the US is working to stop Iran.” He added, however, that “this [claims of direct negotiations] is not such an important thing, and perhaps it’s not even such an important report,” since Iran has been deceiving Western powers for years while proceeding to enrich uranium.“The world is talking with the Iranians all the time through the P5+1 group. The Iranians have been fooling the world for years,” Barak said. “The problem is that Iran is talking so that the centrifuges [can go on] spinning,” he added.Israel’s stance is that all uranium enrichment in Iran must end, and that uranium that has already been enriched must be removed from the country, other than a small, “symbolic” amount, the defense minister said.Furthermore, the subterranean uranium enrichment facility in Qom must be dismantled, he said. “Anything less that that means planting one’s head in the sand and not achieving results,” Barak added.The defense minister struck a pessimistic note on the chances of diplomacy and sanctions causing Tehran to change its mind about its nuclear weapons program.“I would like to wake up tomorrow morning and see the Iranians give up their program, but it doesn’t look like this is happening,” he told the radio station.Turning to the recent escalation on the Gaza border, Barak praised the resilience of Israeli residents living in southern rural districts who have come under regular Palestinian rocket attacks.He said that the situation “is much better than in the past. Iron Dome is deployed against the bigger rockets. It won’t help against mortars. The mortars are directed against IDF [targets] near the Erez Border Crossing. The IDF attacked the cell that fired them [on Monday morning].”While Israel “is not deterred” by the possibility of a Gaza ground offensive, Barak indicated that the time for such a maneuver had not yet come. “We don’t want to do anything hastily, and then start thinking about it afterward,” he said.The current security situation did not warrant an offensive in Gaza, “but that could change,” Barak warned. “The IDF can operate in Gaza in any way the government decides.”Barak noted that Israel had been in Gaza for 40 years, and that “[former prime minister Ariel] Sharon, of all people, decided to leave Gaza and remove the last soldier and settler. [He did this] not because he loved Arabs,” Barak said.“We have to act responsibly,” he added.