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Israel says clock ticking after Iran talks fail

22 June, 2012

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JERUSALEM: Israel has responded to the failure of the latest nuclear talks between world powers and Iran with a familiar refrain: sanctions must be ramped up while the clock ticks down toward possible military action.

With diplomacy at an impasse, there is satisfaction among Israeli leaders at what they see as a tough line taken by the West in the negotiations on curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israeli political sources said on Thursday. A member of the British negotiating team quietly visited Israel on Wednesday to brief officials on this week's Moscow talks, the sources said, and new US and European sanctions against Iran are due to come into effect in the next two weeks.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak stuck closely to his stated line, without offering any new sense of urgency, when asked by the Washington Post how much more time Israel can allow for diplomacy to work. "I don't want to pretend to set timelines for the world," he said, "but we have said loud and clear that it cannot be a matter of weeks but it (also) cannot be a matter of years".

Preparations for any strike against Iran, which Israel and Western powers suspect is trying to develop the capacity to build a nuclear bomb, are closely guarded in Israel. But Barak said that even in the United States, which has counselled against jumping the gun while a diplomatic drive with Iran is under way, "at least on a technical level, there are a lot of preparations".

Iran and six world powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - failed to secure a breakthrough in Moscow at what was the third round of the latest diplomatic initiative, and set no date for more political talks. Last month, and again in Moscow, the powers asked Iran to close the Fordow underground facility where uranium is being enriched to 20-percent fissile purity, and to ship any stockpile out of the country, demands that come close to Israel's.

Israeli Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz held talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Iranian navy has announced plans to build more warships and increase its presence in international waters at a time of growing tension in the Middle East over Tehran's nuclear programme. Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said the deployments would protect Iranian cargo ships around the world, in particular in the Gulf of Aden and the northern part of the Indian Ocean, according to state news agency IRNA. The navy wanted to guard Iranian ships from Somali pirates, the report said.

IRNA did not mention Israel although the Jewish state has hinted it might take military action against Iran's nuclear programme. An Israeli official repeated the veiled threat on Wednesday following the failure of the latest round of international talks to make progress on the issue. State-owned Press TV quoted Sayyari as saying: "Our presence in international waters is aimed at safeguarding the interests of the Islamic Republic and strengthening military power to defend Iran."

End.

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