U.S. officials arrive in Israel for urgent discussion on Iran
Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, briefs Israeli counterpart on talks in Geneva; Kerry says U.S. is neither 'blind' nor 'stupid' in dealings with Iran.
A delegation of high-ranking U.S. officials arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday to update the Netanyahu government on the weekend talks in Geneva about Iran’s nuclear program.
The delegation is led by Wendy Sherman, the U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, who heads the U.S. negotiating team on the matter.
The talks between Iran and six world powers began Thursday and continued into Saturday, in an unscheduled extension.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case against a nuclear accord with Iran directly to the American public on Sunday, appearing on American TV to decry "a very bad deal" being pursued by the Obama administration.
"All Iran gives is a minor concession of taking 20 percent enriched uranium and bringing it down to a lower enrichment," Netanyahu said on CBS TVs Face the Nation program. "But they could cover that within a few weeks, given the capabilities that they keep for enrichment."
He added that the fact that the deal would not require Iran to dismantle uranium-enrichment centrifuges would effectively turn Iran into "a threshold nuclear power," able to build an atomic weapon quickly once it decided to do so.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will be flying to Abu Dhabi to meet with Sheikh Abudllah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss the Iran negotiations. Along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the UAE is a staunch opponent of an agreement between Iran and the world powers. According to foreign news reports, Israel has been working with the UAE on the Iran issue.
Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Kerry said that the U.S. continues to be skeptical of Iran's willingness to dismantle its nuclear program and will keep sanctions in place as talks continue.
"We are not blind, and I don't think we're stupid. I think we have a pretty strong sense of how to measure whether or not we are acting in the interests of our country and of the globe," Kerry said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet at its meeting Sunday that he spoke to U.S. President Barack Obama about the Iran conference on Friday and also spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to convince him not to sign a deal with Iran.
Netanyahu is due to visit Moscow on November 20, the same day as the next round of Iran talks in Geneva.
Over the weekend, Netanyahu also spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking them not to sign a deal with Iran.
“I told them that according to the information reaching Israel, the deal that appears to be in the offing is bad and dangerous,” said Netanyahu. “Not just for us but also for them. I suggested that they wait and give it serious consideration, and it’s good that that is indeed what was decided. We will do everything we can to convince the leaders not to reach a bad agreement.”
Netanyahu said he also spoke by phone to French President Francois Hollande, whose country led the opposition to the current version of an agreement with Iran. Hollande will be coming to Israel on November 17.
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