Iran sanctions to top agenda of Burns visit

Blue ribbon US diplomatic team arrives in Israel for a "strategic dialogue."

burns 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
burns 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A blue ribbon US diplomatic team arrived in Israel Wednesday for a "strategic dialogue" with the US expected to focus on diplomatic sanctions against Iran. The team will be headed by undersecretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns, and will this time include Stuart Levey, the US Treasury official spearheading efforts to hit Iran economically outside of the UN sanctions framework. He has been active in trying to convince the world's financial institutions to sever ties with Teheran. Levey, US undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, has spent the last couple of years trying to convince major financial institutions in the US and around the world to employ financial sanctions against Teheran. Levey's steps are designed as a track running in parallel to - but independent of - sanctions leveled by the UN. Levey was last here in August, when a draft resolution calling for a third round of sanctions against Iran was circulating among UN Security Council states. Nearly six months later, the same issue - a third round of sanctions - is still on the agenda, and expected to be raised at Thursday's talks. Burns met privately soon after his arrival with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who heads the Israeli delegation to the strategic talks. Burns is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as meet PA officials, before he is scheduled to leave on Friday. In addition to Mofaz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's foreign policy adviser Shalom Turgeman, the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Military Bureau head Amos Gilad, and Foreign Minister director-general Aharon Abramovitch are expected to take part in the talks form the Israeli side. Burns, Washington's third-ranking diplomat, announced his retirement last week, and is scheduled to leave his job in March. The White House said it would nominate William Burns, currently the US's envoy to Moscow, to replace him. That, in turn, has led to a swirl of rumors over who would replace him, with US ambassador to Israel Richard Jones mentioned as a possible candidate because he speaks Russian. Jones previously served as US envoy to Kazakhstan. The US embassy had no comment on the reports.