'US-Israel military cooperation stronger than ever'

Panetta hosts Peres at Pentagon; president praises diplomatic efforts but warns of continued Iranian drive to obtain nukes.

Peres and Panetta 370 (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)
Peres and Panetta 370
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO)
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta hosted President Shimon Peres at the Pentagon on Monday, saying that military cooperation between the US and Israel was "stronger than ever, stable and ongoing."
Peres visited the Pentagon as part of a multi-day visit to the US in which he is scheduled to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from US President Barack Obama.
In addition to meeting Panetta, Peres took part in a roundtable discussion with other senior US officials, including US military chief Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Peres took the opportunity to voice Israel's concerns about Iran potentially obtaining nuclear weapons, accusing the Islamic Republic of desiring to "take control of the Middle East" as part of its "religion-inspired imperialistic ambitions." The president warned that "no responsible country in the world can accept a situation in which the Middle East falls victim to Iranian hegemony."
The president praised western efforts to diplomatically neutralize Iran's nuclear program through negotiations, but warned that Tehran continued to "lie and cheat" in efforts to pursue nuclear weapons.
Peres thanked the US and Obama for their efforts to pressure Iran with sanctions and state clearly that "all options are on the table" to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
The president was scheduled to participate in a conversation with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution on Tuesday before being feted at a White House dinner in his honor on Wednesday night. He returns to Israel on Thursday evening.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.
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