Panetta hints US opposed to unilateral action against Iran

After meeting with Barak, US defense secretary repeats that countries must work "together" to prevent Iranian threat to region.

October 3, 2011 14:38
2 minute read.
Ehud Barak and US SecDef Leon Panetta

Ehud Barak and US SecDef Leon Panetta 311. (photo credit: Ariel Harmony / Defense Ministry)


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US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta hinted Monday that America was opposed to unilateral Israeli action against Iran, saying during a press conference in Tel Aviv that the way to stop the Islamic Republic's pursuit of a nuclear capability was for countries to work together.

Ensuring that Iran doesn't "represent a threat to this region," he said, "depends the countries working together."

Analysis: Easing concerns and looking for assurances
'Israel is the West's creation for Mideast dominance'

Panetta arrived in Israel on Monday morning on his first visit as secretary of defense. In 2009 as head of the CIA, Panetta was sent to Israel by US President Barack Obama to warn Israel not to take unilateral military action against Iran.

During the joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Panetta said the US is "very concerned and we will work together to do whatever is necessary" to prevent Iran from threatening the region.

The US recognizes the threat from Iran, he said, as it continues to develop a nuclear capability and supports terrorist organizations throughout the region, some of which are responsible for the deaths of American soldiers.

Panetta also addressed a decision by the US Congress to withhold $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, saying it was against the Obama administration's position.

"The administration opposes holding these funds from the Palestinians,"  he said, adding that the funds have helped the Palestinian Authority build better security, which helps the Palestinians as well as Israel.

"This is a critical time and it is not a time to withhold those funds," he said.

The US defense chief would not comment on reports that after his visit to Cairo on Tuesday, he will be bringing alleged Mossad spy Ilan Grapel back with him to the US.

"I cannot say anything about the specifics about that," he said. "We've made our concerns known to the Egyptians about holding that individual."

The release of imprisoned Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard is a "sensitive issue," the secretary of defense said, claiming that there was a "great deal of opposition" to his release in the United States.

"Pollard has been a sensitive issue for a long time. There is a great deal of opposition to the release of Pollard that goes back to the fact that he was convicted as a spy." For that reason, Panetta said, "the president has indicated that the position of the US is for him not to be released."

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