U.S. puts October deadline on Iran talks
J'lem receives confidential report stating special envoy Ross setting deadline for U.S. policy change.
The United States has set October as its target for completing the first round of talks with Iran on its nuclear program, according to confidential reports sent to Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday, during talks with his German counterpart, that Iran must not be allowed to continue stalling for time on its nuclear program.
Several days ago, Jerusalem received a classified notice reporting on a meeting between a senior European official and the special U.S. envoy on Iran, Dennis Ross. The telegram stated that Ross said this autumn, probably October, was the target date for concluding the first round of talks.
Ross said that unless the U.S. sees a change in Iran's position on its nuclear program, Washington's stance toward Tehran will stiffen at that time, the source explained.
Several days ago, Ross visited Egypt and several Persian Gulf countries for talks on Iran's nuclear program. Washington has not informed Israel of its plans. So far, Israel has heard about developments between the U.S. and Iran secondhand, via European sources.
A political source in Jerusalem said information received so far suggests that the Americans are interested in dialogue with Iran in the near future and plan to hold four to five months of talks. The U.S. will reevaluate the state of talks in the autumn, and will then decide how to proceed.
The United States is still waiting for an Iranian response to the Western offer for dialogue, which was sent to chief Iranian negotiator Said Jalili several weeks ago.
"At the pace the Iranians are moving, it is not at all clear whether by fall the dialogue will have begun," the source said. "If the Iranians continue being evasive, it may be necessary to change the dialogue strategy."
In June, a foreign ministers' conference is scheduled to take place in Italy regarding Afghanistan. The Iranians have been invited to participate, and if they do, the first meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki will probably take place there.
Presidential elections are also scheduled to take place in Iran in June, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is facing opposition from reformists and scathing criticism for his domestic policies, particularly on economic issues. If he loses the election, this may usher a change in Iranian attitudes regarding talks with the U.S.