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Obama Officials to Brief Israel, Congress on Push for Iran Nuclear Bargain
The Obama administration on Wednesday reportedly prepared to deliver updates on this week's Iran nuclear talks to Israel and the U.S. Congress, where some officials suspect Tehran's negotiators proposed a deal aimed at preserving their government's ability to pursue nuclear weapons.
Speaking to reporters, a senior Obama official said dates were "already being scheduled" to update Israel and Washington's other Middle East allies on this week's two-day multilateral discussion in Geneva. Iranian diplomats used the forum to brief the United States and five other countries on its proposal to adopt certain undisclosed restrictions on its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
The insider said the exchange included "technical discussions at a level we have not had before," but added that "experts" would meet to flesh out additional details before a planned Nov. 7-8 follow-up meeting of the higher-level diplomats who spoke this week.
"I told Congress that I would come up and, probably in a classified setting, brief them on where we are," the administration official added.
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers were acting to further increase Iran's economic isolation, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. A number of U.S. legislators have demanded significant atomic concessions from Tehran.
The U.S. Senate Banking Committee could be poised to develop new Iran penalties legislation more stringent than a proposal approved this summer by the House of Representatives.
In addition, Senator Marco Rubio (R-N.Y) on Wednesday proposed a resolution warning against cuts to Iran sanctions unless the nation "abandoned ... any enrichment or reprocessing capability." Those processes can respectively yield uranium and plutonium for bombs, though Tehran insists its atomic ambitions are strictly peaceful.
Calls for Iran to permanently halt all domestic uranium enrichment have consistently faced rejection from the nation's leaders, including its new, relatively moderate president.
The Obama administration has not publicly stated whether it would consider a compromise permitting the Persian Gulf power to continue some uranium refinement on its soil. After this week's talks concluded, though, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hinted to reporters that other states' delegates had demonstrated a degree of flexibility.
The discussions with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany involved "some serious give and take," the Christian Science Monitor quoted the top Iranian diplomat as saying.
Certain unidentified envoys said Washington and other Western governments now believe some Iranian uranium enrichment will inevitably continue, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Iranian diplomats have suggested ending production of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity -- a short step from bomb-usable material -- and changing some of its stockpiled material to uranium oxide, which takes longer to weaponize.
"The key question to this negotiation [can be] put it in terms of time," former Obama administration WMD czar Gary Samore told reporters on Tuesday, Time reported Wednesday. "How much time do you want to have in terms of advance warning that Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons by producing weapons-grade uranium?"
Israel this week reaffirmed its call for Iran to end all nuclear activities and to relinquish its full uranium stockpile. However, a high-level insider said it is "premature to give our reaction," the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
U.S. Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, the top delegate to this week's Iran talks, is set to travel to Israel within days, the source added.
In addition, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is slated next Wednesday to confer on Iran with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Hill newspaper reported.
Without explicitly identifying Iran as a potential target, Netanyahu on Tuesday said his nation "can’t surrender the option of a preventive strike," the Times of Israel reported.
"There are situations in which paying heed to the international price of such a step is outweighed by the price in blood we will pay if we absorb a strategic strike that will demand a response later on, and perhaps too late," he told Israeli lawmakers.
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