Israel’s delegation in Paris trying to prevent ‘bad’ Iran nuclear deal

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius (L-R), Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond pose ahead of nuclear talks in Brussels March 16, 2015. (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)
Top Israeli officials are visiting France in a last-minute effort to discuss and “amend loopholes” in the nuclear deal with Iran, which Tel Aviv sees as dangerous. It follows reported disagreements between the US and France around negotiating strategy.

“This is an effort to prevent a [nuclear] deal that is bad and full of loopholes, or at least... to succeed in closing or amending some of these loopholes,” Israeli International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio.

Steinitz is visiting Paris with National Security Council head Yossi Cohen and several other intelligence officials. The delegation could also be visiting other European capitals, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Steinitz told AP on Monday that discussions with France over Iran’s nuclear program have “proven...productive” in the past, which is why Israel is pursuing its trip to Paris.

Over the weekend, there were reports of some disagreements between France and the US, with the former adopting a tougher stance during the negotiations.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called his team in Switzerland to make sure no more concessions were made, officials present at the Iran nuclear talks said last week. Fabius said on Saturday that France wants a deal that would ensure Iran could not produce a nuclear weapon.

The Iran nuclear talks include the P5+1 powers – China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, plus Germany. They are aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

The parties suspended talks in Switzerland on Friday, which are scheduled to be resume next week. Those involved in the negotiations still need to resolve the deadlock around Iran’s atomic research and sanctions before the March 31 framework deadline. The full agreement deadline is set for June 30.

France’s envoy to Washington, Gerard Araud, tweeted that the March 31 deadline was “a bad tactic” and “counterproductive.”

Another French diplomat also told Reuters that Israel has “gone too far” and “marginalized itself” with its latest moves against the nuclear deal. “We told them to play their part so they could influence a final accord, but they have taken unrealistic positions,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

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There has been a long-standing rift between Israel and the US on the issue of Iran nuclear talks. The disagreement was further intensified after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to the US Congress earlier in March.

In his address, Netanyahu said a deal with Tehran would all but guarantee that Iran would have the capabilities to build nuclear weapons. He also pointed out that the Iranian “regime will always be an enemy of America,” and compared it to “the Nazi regime.”

In response, US President Barack Obama hinted in a video address last week that relations between Iran and the international community, including the US, could “progress,” should some forces not undermine the course, which Obama called an “early spring.”