Israel skeptical on Iran talks in Baghdad

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 24, 2012
Baroness Ashton meets Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari this week

Baroness Ashton meets Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari this week

Western diplomats participating in the Baghdad talks that began on Wednesday were upbeat about the possibility of reaching a deal which would limit Iran’s uranium enrichment programme.

A delegation from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Germany, headed by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Ashton, presented a detailed framework that would limit the level of enrichment that Iran may carry out and remove the 100kg of uranium that Iran has already enriched to 20 per cent purity.

Iran’s delegation, led by the secretary of its Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, the envoy of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded with a five-point plan.

While no final agreement is expected to be reached in the two-day round of talks, Western diplomats involved said that “this time there is a clear understanding that the Iranians know what they have to do. The ferocity of the international sanctions has persuaded them they have no choice”.

Israeli officials, however, were more dismissive. Amos Gilad, the head of the Defence Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security bureau, said on Monday that: “They are now at the point where they could develop nuclear weapons, yet on the other hand need to postpone a decision to go ahead by a few months.”

Meanwhile, according to a BBC report, the UK’s National Security Council last week discussed legal considerations regarding potential British involvement in any hostilities in the Persian Gulf region.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said in response: “We do not advocate military action against Iran and we continue to believe that the twin-track process of pressure and engagement offers the best hope of resolving this issue.”

Last updated: 3:08pm, May 24 2012