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Barak: Iranian Nuclear Program World's 'Greatest Challenge'

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says Iran's nuclear program is the biggest challenge facing Israel, the Middle East and the world, and that "all options" remain open to addressing possible atomic weapons development.

He told the opening of a conference Sunday in Washington that even in the face of "unprecedented" diplomatic efforts and sanctions against Iran, he does not believe the country's rulers will abandon their "nuclear aspirations."

Israel and the West suspect Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability under the guise of a civilian atomic energy program, a charge Iran rejects. Tehran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden are scheduled to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday.



The meeting comes ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's planned trip to Israel later this month. The visit will be his first since taking office in 2009.

Iran and world powers plan to continue talks about the country's nuclear program on March 18, after negotiators from the two sides met last week for their first high-level talks since June.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany proposed lifting sanctions on Iranian gold and other precious metals in return for Iran suspending enrichment of uranium to 20 percent purity at its Fordo underground facility.

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden (R) applaud Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after the president announced Hagel's resignaton at the White House in Washington, Nov. 24, 2014.

Photogallery US Defense Chief Resigns

Resignation comes 'under pressure,' New York Times reports, citing senior administration officials More