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October 22, 2009

Confirmed: Nuclear Talks Between Iran & Israel

Haaretz has confirmed an earlier report that representatives from Iran and Israel both took part in a conference on nuclear nonproliferation in Cairo.

The exchanges between the Iranian and Israeli representatives took place within three panel sessions, each dealing with one of the issues with which the [International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament] is concerned – declaring the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, preventing nuclear proliferation in the region and matters of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The two did not meet or shake hands outside the sessions. In one of the discussions, Soltanieh [Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA] directly asked Zafary-Odiz [director of policy and arms control for the Israel Atomic Energy Commission]- and eyewitnesses say he spoke in an impassioned voice, “Do you or do you not have nuclear weapons?” Zafary-Odiz smiled, but did not respond.
During the meetings, Zafary-Odiz explained the Israeli policy of being willing, in principle, to discuss the Middle East as a nuclear-free zone. She also detailed Israel’s unique strategic situation, saying regional security must be strengthened, security arrangements must be agreed upon and a peace agreement must be sealed before Israel would feel at liberty to discuss this topic.

Soltanieh defended his country’s policy, and said Iran was not striving for nuclear armament and did not endanger Israel. He said Israel did not understand the mentality and ideology of the Tehran regime. He said the regime did not oppose or hate Jews, but was merely politically opposed to Zionism. He said Iran’s growing arsenal of missiles was for defensive, not offensive, purposes.

The Iranians have denied the report, calling it a “a psychological operation to undermine the successful [nuclear] meetings in Geneva [October 1] and Vienna [October 19-21].”

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