The last few days of Iran's negotiations with world powers to secure a deal which limits Tehran's nuclear bomb-making abilities are going to hit turbulence – but not because of recent reports of Israel spying on the delegation the last time it met in Switzerland, but more due to the details of what was broadly agreed on in April now being placed under the microscope.
The final stretch of negotiations on curtailing Iran's nuclear ambitions will be "pretty tough," a U.S. official warned Wednesday, as the final count down to a June 30 deadline for a historic agreement ebbs closer.
The long-sought deal -- which is bitterly opposed by both by Israel and Saudi Arabia -- would reduce Iran's nuclear program in return for relief from punishing sanctions.
"As we expected after Lausanne (where a framework deal was struck on April 2), the next portion of this process will be pretty tough because we will be getting down to the details," the U.S. official told reporters.
Also yesterday, US officials came under fire from the media over reports of Israel using spying software to access delegates laptops during the talks, which Washington insists will not hamper the negotiations.
The US said Wednesday night it "takes steps" to ensure the confidentiality of nuclear negotiations with Iran, after a leading cyber-security firm said European hotels hosting the talks were attacked by an intelligence-collection virus linked to Israel.
"We take steps, certainly, to ensure that confidential, that classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors in these negotiations," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters during the daily press briefing.
But just how much emphasis was placed on security? The Wall Street Journal's report revealed the kind of security sweep used before such meetings take place. The American business journal reported Wednesday that three European hotels were targeted by a version of the spyware Duqu virus days before hosting the negotiations, citing researchers at the cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab ZAO, based in Moscow.
According to WSJ, Kaspersky checked thousands of computers in other European hotels, all of them coming up clean – and it also quoted "current and former US officials and many cybersecurity experts (as believing that) Duqu was designed to carry out Israel's most sensitive intelligence-collection operations."
Israel, naturally denies spying on its "allies".
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.