Panetta to urge Iran sanctions during Israel visit

By
July 30, 2012 20:58

US sec. of defense due to arrive in Israel for 2nd visit in 10 months; talks will focus on Iran nuke program, Syria, Egypt.

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US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta [file]

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta 370 (R). (photo credit:REUTERS/Larry Downing)

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will arrive in Israel on Wednesday to gauge Israel’s determination to attack Iran and to try to persuade Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to give sanctions and diplomacy more time.

Panetta will arrive in Israel on Wednesday after brief stopovers in Tunisia and Egypt and will be met by an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

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He will sit down to a work meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak before later talking to Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

This will be Panetta’s second visit to Israel in 10 months and his ninth meeting with Barak.

Defense officials said talks with Panetta would focus on Iran’s continued nuclear program and the volatile situation in Syria, as well as Israel’s ties with Egypt.

Officials said that due to the timing of the visit – just days Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem – Panetta is expected to affirm the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, and possibly even announce a new security package.

Shortly before landing in Tunis on Monday, Panetta told reporters new sanctions were set to be imposed on Iran next week.

“With regards to where Israel is right now, my view is that they have not made any decisions with regards to Iran and that they continue to support the international effort to bring pressure against Iran,” Panetta said.

During his visit, Panetta will tour an Iron Dome counter-rocket defense battery and meet with the Israel Air Force soldiers who operate it. The US has provided Israel with $205m. for additional Iron Dome batteries and recently announced the allocation of an additional $70m.

“We feel that the more we can support them in building that kind of defense system, the more we can send a clear signal to others that Israel is going to be able to defend itself against such attacks,” Panetta said.

He also disregarded Romney’s claim on Sunday that Israeli-US ties were strained and said there was unprecedented defense cooperation between the two countries.

“I’m proud of the defense partnership that we’ve built over the past several years,” he said. “The US-Israel defense relationship, I believe, is stronger today than it has been in the past.”

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