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Gates: US Wants Iran Answer on Nuclear Talks by September


Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates no option is off the table as Israel prepares a possible strike against Iran's suspected nuclear facilities.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is among a list of several top Washington officials who are visiting Israel this week.

Their aim is to work out disagreements that newspapers here say have put U.S.-Israeli relations at their worst in years. Those disagreements center on U.S. calls for Israel to freeze construction on Jewish settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians.

The subject of Iran and its nuclear ambitions dominated talks Monday between Mr. Gates and the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. At a news conference, Mr. Barak indicated the Jewish State is prepared to launch a preemptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

"No options should be removed from the table in spite of the fact that at this stage, a priority should be given still to diplomacy," he added.

Gates said the U.S. and Israel are in full agreement on the negative consequences of having Iran obtain nuclear weapons capabilities.

"I think we also agree that it is important to take every opportunity to try and persuade the Iranians to reconsider what is actually in their own security interests," said Gates.

Gates said the Obama administration wants to see a positive response from Iran soon.

"This is not an open-ended offer to engage. We're very mindful of the possibility that the Iranians would simply try to run out the clock," he said.

Also in the region is U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, was in Cairo on Monday for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mitchell visited Israel on Sunday, and also Syria, where he listed U.S. aims in the region.

"Peace between Palestinians and Israelis, between Syria and Israel, and between Lebanon and Israel, and - course - ultimately the full normalization of relations between Israel and all of the countries in the region," said Mitchell.

Mitchell met with Syrian leaders in Damascus on Sunday as well as with Israeli officials in Tel Aviv.

Mitchell's schedule on Monday included shuttling to the West Bank town of Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


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