Nuclear talks between Iran, Western powers to begin next month
Officials in Jerusalem estimate Israel will allow at least three months for discussions, until oil embargo on Iran comes into full effect in July.
Discussions between Iran and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program will begin on April 13, senior U.S. and EU officials informed Israel on Tuesday. The talks are likely to take place in Geneva.
Officials in Jerusalem estimate that Israel will allow at least three months for discussions, until the oil embargo on Iran comes into full effect in the beginning of July.
Meanwhile, former Mossad head Meir Dagan said he believes Israel will be aware when Iran moves to the stage of nuclear weapon production – for example, enriching uranium to a degree of 90 percent. Dagan said that at that stage Israel would have to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international community does not stop its program.
Speaking at an event in a Haifa hospital, Dagan said that currently Israel must not attack Iran, and that a strike on its nuclear facilities should be the last resort.
Dagan said he believed the Israeli Air Force has the capability to significantly damage Iran's nuclear sites, yet warned that such a strike will have serious repercussions.
He added that in case of an Israeli attack, hundreds of missiles will be launched at Israel, together with barrages from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iranian-linked organizations in Gaza.
President Barack Obama made a direct appeal on Tuesday to the Iranian people, saying there was "no reason for the United States and Iran to be divided from one another."
In a video message marking the Persian new year, known as Nowruz, Obama said the U.S. seeks a dialogue with the Iranian people in order hear their views and understand their aspirations. And he sharply rebuked the Iranian government for setting up an "electronic curtain" around its people that the U.S. says blocks access to much of the outside world.
Israel has been in constant talks with the U.S. administration and the EU in preparation of the talks, and has insisted on holding the Iranians to a timeline. A senior official said that Helga Schmidt, deputy to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, visited Jerusalem a few days ago and discussed the Iranian issue.According to an Israeli official, Schmidt expressed concern over the possibility of a unilateral Israeli action against Iran. She said that the talks were serious and will be comprised of a series of meetings.
On Tuesday, representatives from the six nations met in Brussels to coordinate positions ahead of the talks. Washington and other European capitals expressed concerns that a breakdown of the talks would lead to a significant escalation and will require a serious examination of a military option.
Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements about Israel's duty to prepare for an independent strike against Iran, a decision is not expected to be made in the coming weeks. In television interviews after his visit to Washington Netanyahu said a decision should be made "not within days, but not within years either."