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Israel lists demands to EU for Iran talks


Israel laid down its expectations of what it would consider a success in upcoming world talks over Iran's nuclear program in a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, an Israeli official told AFP.

The meeting was also attended by far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and incoming vice premier and Kadima head Shaul Mofaz, who on Tuesday agreed to join the ruling Likud party in a national unity government.

"They discussed Iran. Israel presented its positions as the next round of P5+1 talks in Baghdad approach," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The P5+1 grouping of diplomats from permanent UN Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany held a first round of talks with Iran on April 14 in Istanbul and a second round is due to take place in Baghdad on May 23.

At the talks, Netanyahu told Ashton what Israel expected as progress: "Iranian agreements, with a clear timeline for implementation, on three points: the cessation of all uranium enrichment, the removal from Iran of all already-enriched material, and the dismantlement of the underground facility in Qom."

He also expressed doubt the talks would achieve anything, telling her: "From what we see so far, the Iranian regime is using these talks to play for time, and there's no evidence they have any intention to cease their nuclear program."

Israel is the region's sole nuclear power, and has escaped the intense international pressure beset upon Iran due to its privileged status as a key US ally.

Israeli anxiety over Iran's nuclear program stems from a fear that a nuclear Iran would significantly erode Israel's regional military supremacy.

The Jewish state has ignored Arab calls for it to disarm its nuclear arsenal – said to be between 200-300 warheads – and shrugged off concerns that its own possession of nuclear weapons might motivate Iran and other regional powers to pursue their own nuclear deterrent.

Israel's nuclear arsenal as a source for regional instability has not been addressed by Western powers, and neither has the option of Israel disarming been put forward as an option to dissuade Iran from pursuing its own nuclear agenda.

EU officials had no immediate comment on the meeting, which was kept tightly under wraps and only flagged last week by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, which said Ashton would be briefing Netanyahu on developments in the P5+1 talks.

Israel is reportedly concerned the world powers may cut a deal with Iran that would have only a limited impact on its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions, Haaretz said last week.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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