The United States hinted it is prepared to use military force to stop Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, visiting US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.
Panetta made the remarks during a visit to an Iron Dome counter rocket defense system outside the city of Asheklon together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
"If they continue and if they proceed with a nuclear weapon ... we have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not happen," Panetta said.
While expressing skepticism that sanctions would succeed in stopping Iran - on Tuesday President Barack Obama announced two new rounds of sanctions against Iran's envy and banking sectors - Barak hailed the Israeli-US alliance, even while admitting that there were disagreements on Iran.
"There are disagreements but this does not affect the profound depth of our ties and we plan to keep it that way," Barak said.
Earlier, Defense Minister
Ehud Barak praised Panetta for his role in enhancing
security ties between the US and Israel as the two met in Tel Aviv on
"Ties between Israel an the US in the security realm
are as strong and close as they have ever been, and without a doubt, a
substantial part of the credit belongs to Defense Secretary Leon
Panetta," Barak said.
Calling Panetta "not just a personal friend
for many years, but a friend of Israel," Barak went on to say that "The
US and Israel see reality in much the same way, and there is much to
discuss, as the regional problems are serious and numerous."
Speaking before the meeting, Panetta said, "Our countries have a strong bond, not only of friendship but of
"We will do everything we can to defend both of
our countries," he added.
Ahead of Panetta's arrival in Israel on Tuesday night, Israeli officials said they expected him to press Israel
to give more time for sanctions before launching a military strike against
Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo
shortly before departing for Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about
“various contingencies,” but said specific military plans would not be put
“I think it is the wrong characterization to say we are going to
be discussing potential attack plans,” he said. “What we are discussing are
various contingencies and how we would respond.”
Asked whether these
included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number
of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are
going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to
share both information and intelligence on that.”
The US has said it is
determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to
give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.
of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear
weapon and to that extent we continue to work together in the effort to ensure
that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta
Jpost.com Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.