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Israel sends envoy to United States for talks over Iran nuclear deal

Israel will send a top official to Washington for talks over a final nuclear deal with Iran. An interim agreement curbing Iran’s nuclear activities has been criticized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Sunday, Iran committed to not enriching any more uranium above a level of 5 percent for six months and to dilute or convert its stockpile of enriched uranium to a level that no longer qualifies as weapons-grade. In exchange, Iran receives sanctions relief worth an estimated $7 billion (5.2 billion euros).

The agreement was hailed by Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as a "turning point" and US President Barack Obama as an "important first step." Negotiated between Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States (known as the P5+1) and Iran in Geneva, the deal is largely seen to be a positive move towards ensuring that the nation does not build nuclear weapons.

It did not win such praise from Netanyahu, however, who labeled it a "historic mistake." He moved quickly to make his concerns known, announcing on Monday that he would send his national security advisor to Washington for talks.

"I spoke yesterday with President Obama and we agreed that in the coming days an Israeli team led by National Security Advisor Yossi Cohen would leave for talks with the United States on the final deal with Iran," Netanyahu told his country's parliament.

"That agreement must have a sole result: the dismantling of Iran's military nuclear capability," his office quoted him saying.

"I remind you that only last week, during the talks, the leaders of Iran repeated their commitment to destroy the state of Israel, and I reiterate here today my commitment, as prime minister of Israel, to prevent them from achieving the ability to do so."

Netanyahu was referring to comments from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made last Wednesday, when the Shia cleric reportedly called Israel "the rabid dog of the Middle East."

Iran maintains that its uranium enrichment program is peaceful, though it has done little to dispel doubts elsewhere - including in Israel and the US - that is instead aimed at building a weapons capability.

ph/mkg (AFP, AP, Reuters)