Slow Obama Stance on Iran Nukes Worries Israel

Obama's 'procrastination' in appointing envoy to Iran is 'very disconcerting,' said an Israeli official.

Israeli officials are putting together a position paper on talks between the United States and Iran for the new administration in Washington, Israeli officials say. The paper will include a list of reservations about the state of international efforts against Iran's nuclear program. One worry is that negotiations will go on for too long.

The paper states that talks between the United States and Iran should be limited to a short period of time. It also recommends that harsh sanctions be imposed against the Islamic Republic if negotiations fail.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who appointed envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan within days of his inauguration, has not done so with Iran. An Israeli official in Jerusalem told Haaretz that "this procrastination is very disconcerting."

Israel and several leading countries in the European Union are concerned about the delay in formulating a U.S. policy on Iran's nuclear program.

About two weeks ago, senior diplomats from the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany met in Berlin to discuss developments on the Iranian front. According to a senior official in Jerusalem, the European delegates were "severely disappointed" by what the American delegate, Under Secretary of State William Burns, had to say.

The official said that when Burns was asked when the United States would forge a final policy on the Iranian issue, he said the matter was being examined and that the process would take about two months. The French, German and British delegates said they were disappointed to hear this and that "the process must be hurried along," according to the official.

He said the French delegates favored an approach whereby talks with Iran would offer Tehran a "one-shot" option. They added that if the American position took two months to formulate, it was advisable to postpone them further, until June when Iran elects its next president.

"There is little sense in investing [effort] in a dialogue with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad before the elections," the Israeli official quoted a French delegate as saying. "He could be replaced before long." Ahmedinejad, a hardline Islamist, is running against Mohammad Khatami from Iran's reform movement.

An Israeli diplomat told Haaretz that a senior consultant to German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that "it's preferable that Ahmadinejad stays on instead of a smiling president who enjoys the image of a pragmatist like Khatami, who would mislead public opinion in the West and carry on with the Iranian nuclear program."