Steinitz to U.S.: Israel’s ‘minimum’ is no enrichment

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told his American counterparts in the Israel-U.S. strategic dialogue that Israel’s “minimum” in any deal with Iran was no uranium enrichment.

Steinitz described his meeting Wednesday with a U.S. team led by William Burns, the deputy secretary of state, as long and productive. Such meetings take place about twice a year.

Steinitz, speaking Thursday to Israeli journalists, said his message to the Americans was that the Iranians must be stripped of any enrichment capacity, describing that as “the minimal agreement for Israel to live with it in peace.”

Israeli officials have not said what the country would do should the United States and Iran strike a deal short of Israel’s demands, but Netanyahu has not ruled out a military strike to keep Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capacity.

The United States led major powers in renewing talks with Iran this month aimed at making more transparent that country’s nuclear program.

The talks were launched after the election this summer of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate who campaigned on outreach to the West, partly as a means of relieving crippling sanctions.

Rouhani says he is ready to make more transparent a nuclear program he insists is for peaceful purposes, but he has ruled out any permanent end to enrichment.

The Obama administration has not publicly said whether it would accept continued enrichment, but reports have said that Western diplomats may accept uranium enrichment at 3.5-5 percent, well short of the 90 percent needed for weaponization.

Steinitz said that Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is such that even at 3.5 percent enrichment, it could break out to weaponization within months and would be able in its first year to manufacture 5-7 bombs.

Steinitz, who also met with lawmakers in Congress and Vice President Joe Biden during his stay, said he backed intensifying sanctions as a means of increasing leverage. Some leading congressional lawmakers back such an intensification; the Obama administration says that such a step now could scuttle the renewed talks.

The next round of talks between the major powers and Iran is set for next month.

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