Israel watching, but making no comments, on Baghdad talks

May 24, 2012


Israel watched the meeting in Baghdad that began on Wednesday between Iran and six world powers carefully, but refrained from commenting on the content because it was not immediately clear where the talks were headed.

Iran and the P5+1 – the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany – exchanged unusually detailed proposals, though no breakthrough appeared to be in the offing. Notable differences remained over when Iran would be rewarded with relief from economic sanctions.

As the talks got under way, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Tehran was “toying with the world” to gain time. Among the ministers inside Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s inner cabinet, he is considered to be taking a more cautious approach to military action against Iran.

“Tight sanctions must continue, alongside international isolation, support for the opposition and a credible military option,” he said. “[The] military option can be prevented if all the other measures are taken. But if none of that helps, someone might then have to take military action against Iran.”

The two sides, according to a Western diplomat, “had a detailed exchange this morning,” and “the atmosphere was businesslike.”

In the afternoon, another diplomat said, Iran reacted to the offers and “also broadened out the discussions to touch on other areas we see as non-core issues.”

Iranian media close to the Tehran government said its chief negotiator Saeed Jalili presented a five-point package covering a “comprehensive” range of nuclear and nonnuclear issues.

The official news agency IRNA sounded a note of discord by quoting Iranian officials referring to the big-power proposal as “nitpicking” while student news agency ISNA said: “Apparently from the Iranian point of view this package is not balanced.”

However, those leaks did not appear to be Tehran’s final response as the talks ran on into the evening.

In Washington, US officials said they expected Iran to take steps to rein in its nuclear program before the West makes reciprocal gestures.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the world powers “put forward a detailed proposal, which includes confidence-building measures that can pave the way for Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.” She said that part of this proposal included “step-by-step reciprocal steps aimed at near-term action on our part if Iran takes it own steps.”

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