Dan Meridor: The only game in town is Iran-US – who wins, who loses.
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGERPublished: APRIL 13, 2010 15:53Advertisement
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration convened a landmark NuclearSecurity Summit on Tuesday aimed at preventing nuclear material fromreaching terrorists, as well as sending a message to Iran that it facedan international community increasingly united in opposition to itsnuclear program.As 47 nations gathered to support and offerconcrete steps in securing nuclear material, and were set to issue acommuniqué outlining their shared vision later on Tuesday, US PresidentBarack Obama also used his bilateral meetings to push for consensus onpressuring Teheran. China, for one, gave some signs of moving towardthe American position following its meeting with the president ahead ofthe summit opening.“This conference, while clearly not beingabout Iran, demonstrates how isolated Iran actually is, when you have47 countries represented here, all of whom are committed to abiding bytheir international obligations,” a senior administration official toldThe Jerusalem Post. “It sends a very clear message to countries likeIran that this is the future, this is the world order that everyonewants to see.”He added, “They have had an opportunity tofollow through with meeting their international obligations but havecreated considerable doubt about the peaceful intent of their nuclearprogram and therefore are going to be facing increasing internationalpressure.”The head of the Israeli delegation, IntelligenceAgencies Minister and Minister for Atomic Affairs Dan Meridor, told thePost 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 inthinking, Iran is mentioned from time to time.”He added, “Theonly game in town is Iran-US. Who wins, who loses. We need America andits allies to win, or else the world order changes. It’s a grievousdevelopment. It’s not good. I think it’s clear to most people here.”Meridor,who is also deputy prime minister, is representing Israel in theconference after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled suddenly onThursday.Israeli officials were quoted at the time as saying hepulled out over concerns that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and otherMuslim countries would seek to make an issue of Israel’s widelyreported but undeclared nuclear arsenal and urge that it sign theNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.But Meridor, who denied thatthere were concerns on this front, said that with mere hours left inthe conference, the subject of Israel’s nuclear capabilities hadn’tbeen raised during the speeches made by delegates.“No oneattacked us. We’re part of the international community. We’re dealingwith an important issue of securing the international community againstnuclear terrorism. We are a country that has something to say on thisissue,” he said. “In the meeting with the president, in the meetingswith other people, speaking here, listening here, the atmosphere isvery cordial.”At the conclusion of the conference, however,Saudi Arabia released its written statement for the record withlanguage than included criticism of Israel.“Israel's possessionof nuclear weapons constitutes a fundamental obstacle to theachievement of security and stability in the Middle Eastern region,”the statement charged. “The justifications that it has cited for itsacquisition and development of weapons of mass destruction, andespecially nuclear weapons, are manifestly and totally inconsistentwith its alleged desire to achieve peace with the peoples and states ofthe region.”Meridor, along with other heads of delegations, metbriefly with Obama before the conference started on Monday night. Theevent is the largest such gathering of world leaders in the US sincethe founding of the UN, and the first time a summit on this scale hasbeen convened on this topic.“He spoke to me and he said he wassorry the prime minister couldn’t come and maybe the timing wasn’toptimal, and then we moved on,” Meridor said of his conversation withObama, but wouldn’t elaborate when pressed by reporters.“Whatwe’ve seen so far at these meetings and plenary sessions is that theleaders have been extremely focused on the issues on the table andreally trying to see how we promote greater internationalcoordination,” the American official said, expressing satisfaction withthe tenor of the conversation. “Really, it’s gone fairly much accordingto script.”Meridor also said that criticism of Israel’snuclear reactors had not been raised in a conference devoted to nuclearsecurity because of the safeguards that Israel employs.“Nobodyhere approached me about the safety of Israel’s nuclear facilitiesbecause everyone knows that we have very high standards,” he said.However,the issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process featuredprominently in talks he had on the sidelines of the conference with USDeputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and with Swedish andNorwegian leaders, with the message focusing on the need to getnegotiations going as swiftly as possible.Most Americanmeetings, however, featured the issue of Iran more prominently. The USon Monday night held an impromptu meeting of the P5+1, the six worldpowers leading efforts to deal with Iran’s nuclear policy, as well asthe one-on-one meeting Obama held with Chinese President Hu Jintao.Followingthe meeting, White House national security official Jeff Bader said theChinese were “prepared to work with us” as the two countries consultwith the rest of the UN Security Council to draft a new round ofsanctions against Iran.Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman MaZhaoxu was also quoted as saying the US and China “share the sameoverall goal on the Iranian nuclear issue,” though later Chineseofficials made comments more critical of sanctions.Meridor described “an atmosphere here that says that something is moving with the Chinese approach.”TheChinese statement produced for the summit spoke of the vision of aworld without nuclear weapons, which Obama himself articulated a yearago and referred to in opening Tuesday’s morning session.Healso spoke of the paramount threat of nuclear weapons being acquired byterrorist networks like al-Qaida, which he accused of making attemptsto do so.“If they ever succeeded, they would surely use it,” hewarned. “Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world,causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to globalpeace and stability.”Israel’s statement included an allusionto Iran as well as to terrorist groups, though it did not reference thecountry by name.“The greatest threat to peace is that the world’s most dangerousregimes and the world’s most dangerous terror groups would acquire theworld’s most dangerous weapons,” the statement said.The“alarming increase” the chance that this threat would materialize ofrecent months, according to the statement, “has been magnified by thepossibility that terror supporting states developing nuclear weaponsmight give these weapons and other nuclear materials to their non-stateproxies in the hope of avoiding culpability for their actions.”Thestatement noted that “Israel acutely understands this threat because aregime that illicitly seeks nuclear weapons and openly calls forIsrael's destruction is supporting terror proxies that continuouslyattack Israel's civilians with missiles, rockets and other means.”
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