Barak: US must limit Iran diplo effort

Defense minister confident Israel, Hamas headed for cease-fire; says Schalit shouldn't be linked in.

barak 248 AJ (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
barak 248 AJ
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Future talks between the US and Iran over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program should not drag out indefinitely, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday. "The time for dealing with the Iranian threat is running out," he said. "The US government is on its way to [conducting a] dialogue with Iran. We believe that dialogue should be sealed within a relatively short period of time. At the same time, sanctions [against Iran] across a wide range of areas should be intensified," Barak said. The defense minister was speaking at an event held to commemorate the 13th chief of staff of the IDF, Dan Shomron, who died a year ago following a stroke. It was hosted by the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee. US President Barack Obama has expressed interest in launching talks with Iran, saying during a speech on Friday that "the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria." Barak's comments came after Iran declared a test-operation of its Busheher power plant last week. Also recently, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran produced 1,010 kg. of low-enriched uranium at its Natanz plant, a third more than previously disclosed, and enough, according to nuclear experts, to assemble a nuclear weapon if the uranium undergoes further enrichment. Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, claimed on Friday that his country's nuclear program was not aimed at producing nuclear weapons, adding that Iran would prove the civilian nature of its program in future talks. "I say it once again, we have no plans to pursue any military programs in our nuclear projects and are ready to prove this to the West," Rafsanjani said. Also on Friday, Barak provided an assessment of Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Hamas, saying Israel was "on the way to a period of calm." He added that "the Egyptians are the central vehicle for coming to any arrangement that will lead to quiet." Barak, who is expected to be replaced in his post after the formation of a new government, said negotiations with the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah "must be renewed," adding that he hoped to see talks "with the Syrians" as well, "but from a position of strength, self-confidence, and in tight coordination with the Americans."