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Shimon Peres and U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro Strike Moderate Tone on Iran

By JTA

Israeli President Shimon Peres and United States Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told North American Jewish leaders that they have confidence in U.S. determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.Read More


John Kerry Sees Iran Nuclear Deal Within Months

By Reuters

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday he hoped an agreement to end a dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme would be completed within months, although Washington was not engaged in a race to seal a deal.

Iran and six world powers came close to a preliminary agreement at the weekend during talks in Geneva and decided to resume negotiations on Nov. 20 in their attempt to defuse a decade-old standoff and allay fears of a drift towards a wider Middle East war.

“This is not a race to complete just any agreement,” Kerry told a news conference during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. However, he added: “Through diplomacy we have an absolute responsibility to pursue an agreement.”

While saying that a deal with Iran was expected within months, Kerry tried to reassure Washington’s Arab allies and Israel that his country would not abandon them.

Thumping the podium, Kerry said President Barack Obama had said “that he will continue to defend his friends and allies in this region, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, others, he will defend them against any external attack.

“That is the promise of the United States and as I stand here as Secretary of State, as long as I’m Secretary of State, that is also our policy, my policy, representing the President of the United States in executing it.”

The fact that a deal might be within reach after a decade of increasing confrontation between Iran and Western powers shows the shift in the tone of Tehran’s foreign policy since President Hassan Rouhani was elected in June.

Rouhani began diplomatic moves towards a nuclear deal in order to ease sanctions that have throttled Iran’s vital oil industry and cut it off from the international banking system.

MAJOR POWERS

But with a breakthrough in Geneva tantalisingly close, divisions within the powers emerged when France declined to endorse the proposal, believing it did not do enough to neutralise the risk of an Iranian atom bomb.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius nonetheless expressed hope on Monday that a deal could be reached, although he said Tehran still had to make an effort on a few points.

“We are not far from an agreement with the Iranians, but we are not there yet,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Some diplomats accused France of grandstanding during the talks at the weekend, which Fabius denied, saying Paris was not isolated but had an independent foreign policy.

Kerry denied reports of rifts among the powers and suggested Iran was not ready to accept the plan at that point.

The powers were “unified on Saturday when we presented a proposal to the Iranians, and the French signed off on it, we signed off on it, and everybody agreed it was a fair proposal. There was unity, but Iran couldn’t take it at that particular moment, they weren’t able to accept that particular thing.”

Fabius said Iran must suspend construction of its Arak heavy-water reactor and halt uranium enrichment to a concentration of 20 percent to win a relaxation of the sanctions, a position long held by Paris.

“I am hopeful we will reach a good deal. We want an accord that ensures regional and international stability,” Fabius said. “If we don’t reach an accord it would be a considerable problem in a few months.”

JOINT STATEMENT

The United Nations nuclear watchdog said it and Iran had signed a joint statement on cooperation to resolve remaining nuclear issues.

The technical agreement opens the way for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit the Arak site and the Gachin uranium mine, and for measures requested by the agency to be implemented.

“The practical measures will be implemented in the next three months, starting from today,” IAEA head Yukiya Amano told a news conference in Tehran, broadcast on state television.

Iran and the six powers are searching for a preliminary agreement that would cap Iran’s nuclear capacity and open up the programme to U.N. inspectors. In exchange, they have offered phased, limited and reversible relief from sanctions. Iran, however, wants an early end to oil and banking sanctions.

Under discussion is a temporary deal entailing a freeze to higher-grade uranium enrichment - which Iran bills as fuel for a medical research reactor but which is also potential material for bombs - lasting about six months.

During that time, Iran and the six powers would negotiate a permanent agreement aimed at ensuring that none of Iran’s nuclear activities could be diverted towards bomb-making. Tehran says its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

In an apparent attempt to keep hardliners on side, Rouhani spoke on Sunday of foreign policy “red lines” and vowed not to bow to threats.

Israel, which calls Iran’s nuclear drive a threat to its existence, condemned the interim deal as it would leave some of Iran’s nuclear fuel-making capacity intact, while giving Tehran respite from sanctions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu served notice that Israel would not feel bound by such a deal, unmistakably reiterating a veiled threat to take military action if it deems diplomacy to have failed to restrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.Read More


Head of School District Accused of Anti-Semitism Speaks Out on Tolerance

By JTA

The superintendent of a New York State school district that has been accused of anti-Semitic harassment said the district “has a long history of acceptance and tolerance.”Read More


Orthodox Mayor Proclaims No Gays in Israeli Town of Beit Semesh

By JTA

An LBGT group filed a complaint against the haredi Orthodox mayor of Beit Shemesh after he said on television that his “holy and pure” city does not have homosexual residents.Read More


Israeli Rabbis and Couples Could Head To Jail for Disobeying Chief Rabbinate

By JTA/Ben Sales

Advocates for religious pluralism in Israel thought they scored a minor victory last month with the passage of a law aimed at loosing the regulations surrounding marriage in the Jewish state.Read More


Benjamin Netanyahu Tells Jewish Federations To Block Iran Nuclear Deal

By Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his case against a nuclear accord with Iran directly to the U.S. public on Sunday, appearing on American TV to decry “a very bad deal” he feared the Obama administration was pursuing.Read More


Germany Speeds Up Investigation Into Apartment Full of Nazi-Looted Art

By Reuters

Germany, under pressure to hasten inquiries into Nazi-looted art works stashed in a recluse’s flat, has sent legal experts to help local authorities in Munich resolve myriad ownership issues, Focus magazine reported on Sunday.Read More


Netanyahu Calls Iran Nuclear Deal 'Bad and Dangerous' for Israel and World Peace

By JTA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal on the table between the world powers and Iran “bad and dangerous.”Read More


Far-Right Avigdor Lieberman To Return as Israeli Foreign Minister

By Reuters

The Israeli cabinet approved on Sunday the return of far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister after his acquittal on corruption charges, in a move that could further complicate peace talks with the Palestinians.Read More


Israel Sends Emergency Response Team To Philippines After Deadline Typhoon

By JTA

IsraAid, an Israeli nonprofit that provides disaster relief and humanitarian aid, is sending an emergency response team to the Philippines, to the areas hardest hit by Typhoon Haivan.Read More


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