Last updated: 25 May, 2012

US official in Israel after Iran nuclear talks

The head of the US delegation to nuclear talks with Iran arrived in Israel on Friday to brief officials after a meeting in Baghdad that achieved little other than arranging more talks.

Wendy Sherman’s visit is the latest in a series of meetings between US and Israeli officials over Iran’s nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is peaceful but much of the international community suspects is a cover for attempts to obtain nuclear weapons.

US officials were coy about the purpose of her visit but it was clear that the aim was to brief officials in Israel, whose government is highly sceptical about whether diplomacy can prevent Iran obtaining the bomb, about the Baghdad talks.

The two-day meeting in the Iraqi capital saw huge differences emerge over dealing with the key issues in a decade-old standoff over Tehran’s programme, with the sole tangible outcome being plans to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19.

The government of Israel, the only if undeclared atomic power in the Middle East, sees the country’s very existence under threat if its arch foe goes nuclear. Like Washington, it has refused to rule out bombing Iranian nuclear sites.

The US State Department said in a statement that the visit was for “consultations on bilateral and regional issues with senior officials and to reaffirm our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.”

“She has arrived,” said US embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer. “I’m not 100 percent sure what her schedule is,” he added, when asked whom Sherman would be meeting while in the country.

Israeli public radio however said Sherman was to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to report on the Baghdad talks, at which world powers noted “significant differences” with Iran but agreed to meet again in Moscow next month.

Israel sees itself as Tehran’s number-one target if Iran acquires the bomb and is highly sceptical that diplomacy will work.

Later on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna was expected to circulate a report detailing Iran’s latest advances in expanding its nuclear activities.