Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak
Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak 250 kilometers southwest of Tehran, on Jan. 15, 2011. Photo by AP
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As opposed to the last two rounds of talks in Geneva, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior members of his government have been keeping their public statements on the negotiations currently taking place in Geneva to a minimum. The media campaigns that accompanied the last rounds of talks have been replaced with attempts to influence the agreement being negotiated in Geneva through quiet diplomatic channels.

Since the start of the third round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 world powers in Geneva, Israel has been in continuous contact with some of the negotiating teams there, not only to keep itself updated but also in order to try and insert last-minute modifications to the agreement, and to prevent concessions to Iran in regard to its heavy water reactor in Arak.

A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that over the last three days, Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who was appointed by Netanyahu to coordinate with world powers on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, spoke on the phone with foreign ministers from two of the six countries taking part in the talks. In addition, Steinitz also spoke on the phone with the heads of those countries' negotiating teams.

In these calls, Steinitz relayed three points that Israel believes could influence the wording of the interim agreement being discussed with Iran:
 
1. Israel asked that the agreement also address suspected Iranian research and development of nuclear warheads and detonators. Steinitz made clear that the agreement must not give Iran legitimacy to continue to develop other aspects of its nuclear program under the definition of "scientific research," which could disguise military dimensions of the nuclear program.  Israel suggested adding a clause stating that the agreement "does not detract from Iran's commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons or to the decisions of the International Atomic Energy Agency."

2. Israel asked that world powers do not relinquish their demand that Iran halt all activity at the Arak heavy water reactor. Israel is concerned that without such a clause in the agreement, Iran will continue to develop the reactor, which it could later use to produce plutonium for a nuclear bomb.

3. Israel asked that world powers insist the agreement committed Iran to convert all of its 190 kilograms of 20-percent enriched uranium into oxide, which cannot be used to develop nuclear weapons. Steinitz stressed that leaving even a small amount of 20-percent enriched uranium in Iran's hands would give the Iranians future legitimacy to reengage in uranium enrichment to this level.

The senior official said that when the talks end, senior diplomats from some of the countries taking part in the talks will visit Israel to brief officials on the results of the negotiations and on future plans.