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Jones: Middle East peace ‘epicenter’ of policy

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Advancing Israel-Palestinian peace is the "epicenter" of U.S. foreign policy, the White House national security adviser said.

"If there was one problem I could recommend to the president if he could solve one problem, this would be it," James Jones said Tuesday in Washington during an address to the first conference of J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby.

Bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement would create "ripples" around the world, Jones said. "The reverse is not true. This is the epicenter."

Jones also said that "Israeli security and peace in the Middle East are inseparable," an implied rebuke to Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who wants to suspend peace talks.

Jones also addressed negotiations with Iran to suspend its suspected nuclear weapons program, saying that the United States expected Iran to export its low-enriched uranium to Russia and then France for enrichment to medical research levels. Iran tentatively agreed to such a deal last month, but now appears to be reconsidering.

The failure to comply with the demands of major powers will lead to "increased pressure," Jones said.

"We will see in a short amount of time" if Iran is cooperating, he said. "Nothing is off the table," he added, using the usual allusion to the threat of force and also saying that the United States had consulted closely with Israel on how to contain Iran.

Jones also outlined U.S. reasons for opposing the Goldstone report commissioned by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which charges Israel and Hamas with war crimes during last winter’s Gaza war. Among these, he said, were its "overly broad recommendations," its failure to address the "asymmetric nature of the conflict" and "its sweeping conclusions of law."

He called on Israel to investigate the claims in the report.

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