U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, on a visit to Israel, says he believes diplomatic efforts to isolate Iran for it uranium enrichment activities are working. VOA'S Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.
On the final leg of a three-nation tour of the Middle East that has taken him to Jordan and Egypt, Robert Gates held talks with Israel's defense minister, Amir Peretz, late Wednesday. The two discussed Iran's nuclear program, the war in Iraq, Israel's relations with Syria and disagreements between Israel and the United States over the sale of advanced weapons systems.
At a news conference after his talks with Peretz, Gates said he believed recent diplomatic efforts, including two U.N. Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions on Iran for its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment activities should be given a chance to work. "I think it is important that there have been two United Nations resolutions -- that the international community is united in telling Iran what it needs to do with respect to its nuclear program. These things do not work overnight, but it seems to me clearly that the preferable course is to keep our focus on the diplomatic initiatives and particularly because of the united front of the international community at this point," he said.
Iranian officials say their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only but Israeli officials say Iran is their biggest threat. At Wednesday's news conference, Defense Minister Peretz said diplomatic efforts should be encouraged on Iran but it was not possible, in his words, to remove other options from the table.
Secretary Gates also said Wednesday's multiple bombings in Iraq that killed more than 150 people were horrifying but would have no effect on the U.S. led effort to try and improve security in Baghdad. "These terrorists are killing innocent men women and children who are Iraqis. They are killing their countrymen. I think it important to highlight their efforts to try and disrupt the process of reconciliation, to try and prove the Baghdad security plan a failure and we intend to persist to show that it is not," he said.
Speaking earlier in Cairo, Gates called on states in the region to help stabilize Iraq saying chaos in Iraq would hurt every country in the Middle East.
Gates also criticized Syria's government, saying he has great concerns about Syria allowing suicide bombers to cross into Iraq from its territory, and Syrian support for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Gates and Peretz also discussed disagreements between Israel and the U.S. over arms sales. U.S. authorities recently imposed restrictions on Israel's ability to sell weaponry to China, and earlier this month the New York Times reported that Israel was trying to delay the sale of advanced U.S. weapons systems to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Israel receives more than two billion dollars in annual military aid from the United States, and U.S. officials have pledged to maintain Israel's military superiority in the region.