News / Middle East

US Military Chief in Israel to Discuss Iran Nuclear Program

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (l) with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Jan. 20, 2012.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (l) with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Jan. 20, 2012.

The top U.S. military official held closed talks Friday with Israeli leaders over how to respond to Iran's controversial nuclear program, which both countries fear is being used to develop nuclear weapons.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey, met in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak and military chief Benny Ganz.  

Few details about the meetings were released, but Israeli media report the U.S. officials were expected to urge Israel not to make a pre-emptive military strike on Iran. Israel has not yet ruled out that possible tactic. The United States favors stronger sanctions against Iran instead of any military action.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the issue with her German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle. She told reporters after the meeting that Iran has a choice to come back to the table and address international concerns about its nuclear program or face international pressure and isolation.

"We are making it clear to Iran that its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its needless provocations such as the threats regarding the Strait of Hormuz place it on a dangerous path," said Clinton.

The United States has been trying to gather more international support for the sanctions and says a military strike against Iran could further destabilize the Middle East.

In Brussels, the office of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she had sent a letter to the Iranian Supreme National Security Council in October. The letter said the group of six nations, which include five permanent U.N. Security Council members [the U.S., China, Russia, Britain and France] plus Germany, is prepared to meet with Iranian officials if Tehran will work toward concrete confidence- building steps.  

Tehran claims its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, but has rejected international inspection of its facilities. Iranian leaders have also threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz for oil shipping if the West imposes sanctions on Tehran.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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