Iran reportedly offered Western powers tonight (Wednesday) to reduce their nuclear capability in exchange for a reduction in sanctions, an offer Israel is working hard to prevent from being fulfilled, AFP reports.
"Israel in the last few hours has learned that a proposal will be brought before the P5+1 in Geneva in which Iran will cease all enrichment at 20 percent and slow down work on the heavy water reactor in Arak, and will receive in return the easing of sanctions," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "Israel thinks this is a bad deal and will oppose it strongly," the official said.
The so-called P5+1 group of major powers will meet Iran's nuclear team in Geneva on Thursday and Friday for the latest round of negotiations revived after the June election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a reputed moderate.
The P5+1 includes the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany. The group has held years of talks with Tehran on its nuclear program, which Western governments and UN officials suspect may be cover for a drive for a weapons capability. Iran has repeatedly denied any such ambition, insisting its nuclear program is solely for generating electricity and for medical purposes.
The reported offer follows claims by Iran's Foreign Minister earlier today that the Geneva conference might yield a quick solution to the ongoing standoff on the nuclear program. Rouhani has allegedly been pushing for a deal for some time, in a move atypical of Iran's hardline policies against international involvement.
Iran's enrichment of uranium to 20 percent has been a particular source of concern for the West as it is seen as a key step on the way to the 90 percent plus level required for a nuclear weapon.
The heavy water reactor under construction at Arak is also a source of concern as it would provide a source of plutonium, an alternative route to a nuclear warhead.
A senior US official said Wednesday that Washington was willing to offer Iran limited sanctions relief if it agreed to take an unspecified "first step" to stop efforts to advance its nuclear capabilities.
"Israel's assessment is that the P5+1 is in a position of strength. The sanctions are hurting Iran, Iran is feeling the pressure and the P5+1 has the capability to compel Iran to end all enrichment and to stop construction of the facility in Arak," an Israeli official said.
Among Israeli officials working to prevent the offer from being taken is President Shimon Peres. Peres, in a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry tonight, reportedly urged Kerry to continue sanctions to ensure peace in the region. "Iran is the greatest danger to the world and peace is the greatest hope," the president stated.
The directive may be especially pertinent in light of reports that President Barack Obama is linking the success of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which Kerry is mediating, with the continued economic measures preventing Iran's nuclear program from reaching success.