Israel, Iran to lock diplomatic horns amid new nuclear deadline
With Iran, world powers working reach new nuclear deal by November, Israel mounts renewed lobby effort to prevent deal, while Iran says it has 'ideas' on overcoming obstacles, vows 'We are still at the table and we will remain at the table until the last minute.'
Israel is lobbying world powers anew against any Iranian nuclear deal that would let Tehran retain potential bomb-making technologies, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday as another deadline for the international diplomacy loomed.
Meanwhile, Iran says it has plenty of ideas on how to reach a nuclear deal with world powers before the November 24 deadline, Tehran's lead negotiator said Tuesday during a visit to France.
Negotiators hope for a comprehensive agreement by November under which Iran, which denies seeking nuclear weaponry, would curb its disputed activities in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions crippling its economy.
The next round of talks between six world powers and Iran is expected to be held later this month in New York, possibly on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly.
Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said in a radio interview he would head a government delegation to Washington next week to press the Israel's demand that the Islamic republic be stripped of all nuclear capacity - something Tehran rules out and many Western diplomats deem unfeasible.
"Next week I will be leading a very large delegation to two days of talks in the United States ahead of the main, the central and possibly the last round of talks between the world powers and Iran," Steinitz told Israel Radio.
He saw no sign of Iran significantly scaling back uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for nuclear warheads, despite diplomatic outreach by its President Hassan Rouhani.
"What Rouhani has done is concede on all kinds of secondary issues, partial concessions, but protected the project's core, which is what threatens us and the whole world," Steinitz said.
"This means that in substance Iran's positions have remained as tough as before, and if there is no dramatic development in the coming month then either there will be no deal - or there will be a bad deal leaving Iran a nuclear threshold state, and this is of course something we are not willing to accept."
Israel is believed to have the region's sole atomic arsenal.
Steinitz led a senior Israeli nuclear delegation to Washington in June, ahead of the previous, July 20 deadline for a deal with Iran, which was missed. As then, Steinitz said this time the Israelis would "share our position and our intelligence information on this matter with the Americans".
"We are serious, determined and we have ideas for each and every problem which exists on the table," top Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said in an interview with France24 television Tuesday.
"We have ideas and our ideas would address all concerns... We have presented our ideas in the previous round. We are going to present again those ideas," he said.
He added however that the other side has to "avoid excessive demands" on the key issue of uranium enrichment, a process which can make nuclear fuel but also the core of a nuclear bomb. "We will certainly have a clearer picture on whether we will be able to finish the job by the deadline," Araqchi said.
Iran and the five permanent members of the UN General Assembly plus Germany decided in July, after several rounds of talks, to extend their self-imposed deadline to get a deal by four months to November 24.
After a decade of rising tensions, such an accord would see the Islamic republic scale back its nuclear program in order to ease long-held fears - rejected by Iran - that it wants atomic weapons.
In return Iran wants a raft of UN and Western sanctions that have caused it major economic problems lifted.
Such a deal is fiendishly complex, however, although Araqchi sought to downplay the chances that the deadline might simply be extended beyond November.
"I see very, very little possibility to extend even more. We would be in a difficult position, I suppose, but I believe that diplomacy would never end. I prefer to remain optimistic and hopeful," he said.
"We are still at the table and we will remain at the table until the last minute."
Reuters and AFP contributed to this report