White House assures Jewish leaders on Iran (JERUSALEM POST) By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 05/23/12)
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WASHINGTON Ė Officials from the administration of US President Barack
Obama stressed their intention to maintain a tough stance during
talks with Iran, according to Jewish leaders who met with top White
House staff on Monday.
Ahead of negotiations in Baghdad over the Iranian nuclear program,
the officials said that the US has no plan to reduce sanctions during
the talks, and that it was their firm expectation that the EU would
still be imposing an oil embargo on Iran at the beginning of July
with no exemptions for British shipping insurance, participants said.
Some 70 members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish
Organizations met with US Vice President Joe Biden, Deputy National
Security Adviser Denis McDonough, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas
Nides and other administration officials in a series of closed door
Participants, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the off-the-
record briefings, said the officials emphasized that the US was
entering the nuclear talks clear-eyed about Iranian intentions and
with no plan to reduce pressure in the near term, reiterating that
all options remain on the table.
The atmosphere was described as business-like and frank, though
several of those in attendance noted that some in the room disagreed
with the positions staked out by the administration.
The meeting at the White House, which usually happens once each year,
comes as the Obama administration gears up for Novemberís
presidential race. During his meeting with the conference, Biden
referenced negative emails circulating to challenge the
administrationís support of Israel and went into a lengthy rebuttal
against the charges. He also noted that he held a lengthy meeting
last week with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, with whom he has a close
The briefings also come soon after the formation of a national unity
government in Israel, which White House officials welcomed as a
positive development, according to several participants. The
officials were pleased with the change because it offers stability
and more opportunities for progress on the peace process by having
more elements in the government who support moving it forward.
Optimism was also expressed on the Palestinian- Israeli front given
recent contact between the two sides.
However, the officials greeted with some skepticism efforts to form a
Fatah-Hamas unity government, pointing out that several previous
attempts led nowhere. But they repeated the established US
requirements that Hamas renounce violence, respect previous
agreements and recognize Israel to be eligible for American aid.
Iran, however, was the main topic of discussion, with several
different American officials making the point that the US would
continue to tighten the sanctions vice on Iran even as talks go on.
The conversation focused on the Iranian issue much more than in
previous years when the peace process and US-Israeli relations played
a bigger role, according to those present. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 05/23/12)
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