Netanyahu sending security aide to U.S. for talks on Iran

JERUSALEM Mon Nov 25, 2013 11:47pm GMT

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his office in Jerusalem November 24, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his office in Jerusalem November 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel's top security adviser plans to go to Washington to discuss a comprehensive nuclear deal that the United States and five other powers hope to negotiate with Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Netanyahu, who described Sunday's interim nuclear deal with Iran as a "historic mistake", fears that lifting sanctions will make it easier for Tehran to pursue a covert nuclear weapons programme.

"I spoke last night with President (Barack) Obama. We agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by the national security adviser, Yossi Cohen, will go out to discuss with the United States the permanent accord with Iran," Netanyahu said in public remarks to members of his Likud party.

"This accord must bring about one outcome: the dismantling of Iran's military nuclear capability," he added.

The U.S. readiness to talk with Tehran, after decades of mistrust, has angered some people in Israel, who said it was a form of appeasement. But supporters of the deal say it will encourage Iran to be more open about its true nuclear aims, which it says are peaceful.

Israel's parliamentary opposition leader Isaac Herzog said Netanyahu should minimise confrontation with the Obama administration "and restore the intimate dialogue with the leaders of the big powers."

United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia clinched the deal with Iran on Sunday to curb the Iranian nuclear programme in exchange for initial sanctions relief, signalling the start of a game-changing rapprochement that they say will reduce the risk of a wider Middle East war.

Israeli, widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, has said in the past it does not rule out military action against Iran to stop it getting atomic weapons.

In a possible sign of heightened cooperation with its closest ally, an Israeli security source told Reuters that the heads of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency had both recently visited for secret talks. The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment.

Israeli TV channels also reported that the head of the U.S. Air force and a senior U.S. naval officer had also visited Israel during an aerial military exercise that also involved Greece and Italy.

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Ori Lewis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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