After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finished celebrating the aftermath of the political bombshell that he had dropped on Israel by bringing in Kadima into the government, he freed up Wednesday to deal with a different bomb.
On Wednesday afternoon, the prime minister met with European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton, who arrived in Israel to brief Netanyahu on the preparations for the second round of nuclear talks with Iran, which are set to take place on May 23 in Baghdad.
Ashton’s visit was first reported in Haaretz last week. In an unusual move, Netanyahu invited Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to join the meeting with Ashton, along with the newcomer, Kadima head Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz, who will be sworn in Wednesday as a minister in the government, will join Netanyahu’s security cabinet, which will now be called the forum of nine senior ministers.
During the meeting, the Israelis presented a rigid set of demands for the Iranians, a senior Israeli official said. Netanyahu and the three ministers told Ashton that Israel’s position leading up to the Baghdad talks is that the talks will be considered as progress only if they would yield an Iranian guarantee – with a clear timetable – to halt uranium enrichment, to remove all enriched uranium out of Iranian soil, and to dismantle the underground enrichment facility in Fordo, which is near Qom.
“Iran is trying to gain time through talks with the West, and has no intention of halting its nuclear program,” Netanyahu told Ashton at the meeting.
For more, go to Haaretz.com