Barak: US to provide missile warning system

In Washington, Barak reaches agreement with Gates on upgrading Israel's defense systems.

Barak me hungry 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Barak me hungry 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Israel has reached agreements with the US for two advanced anti-missile warning systems, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced following meetings with top US officials Tuesday. The agreement on the radar and satellite systems, Barak said, meant that "within just a few months Israel will be stronger and more ready in the area of defense against long-distance threats." On the topic of Iran, Barak spoke of a "shared outlook" that emphasizes diplomacy and seeks stronger sanctions to prevent Teheran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He gave few specifics of conversations he had on this subject. However, he acknowledged a difference of opinion between the two countries, despite this common perspective. "It doesn't mean we agree on everything," he said. "The discussions will continue. The important things is that they understood out point of view. They now understand it better after this visit." Barak reiterated Israel's position that "no option should be removed from the table." Though he noted that "formally" the US shared this position, he emphasized that it was important that this message be taken seriously. "We should mean it when we say it," he stressed. The US also takes a different perspective on renewed settlement construction Israel is mulling in the Jordan Valley. The Defense Committee earlier this month approved construction plans for 20 homes in the Jordan Valley settlement of Maskiot, thus paving the way for the creation of a permanent community on the site which until now has housed only a school. The construction project was initially announced at the end of 2006 and then frozen after an international outcry. Barak called the plans a "procedural move" and added that the settlement issue was always under discussion with US officials. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, however, said that "these continuing activities with respect to settlement activity [are] a problem." They were a subject of conversation in the meeting Barak had with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday, as well as with National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. Rice will meet Wednesday separately with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurei, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, to try and make progress on peace talks. They will then hold a two-hour trilateral meeting before Livni meets with Hadley. US Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell also spoke Tuesday of the strong US commitment to Israel's security, following talks Defense Secretary Robert Gates held the day before with Barak. "Their discussion was broad and reflected a shared strategic vision and common understanding of the threats to the Middle East and emanating from it," he told reporters. "Secretary Gates assured Minister Barak that the Bush administration is prepared to explore additional defensive capabilities for Israel. The secretary also renewed our nation's commitment to Israel's qualitative edge." Rice said Tuesday that the US was still trying to coerce Iran to give up nuclear technology that could be used to build a nuclear bomb. She repeated a warning that the US would seek additional sanctions unless Iran moved quickly to resume meaningful negotiations. "Iran can't have it both ways," Rice told reporters at the State Department. She called Iran's vague reply so far to a renewed offer of perks "pretty disappointing" but not a surprise. AP contributed to this report