U.S. admiral visits Israel, discusses Iran with Barak

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 06, 2012 2:46 PM
U.S. admiral visits Israel, discusses Iran with Barak

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A top U.S. general visited Israel's defense minister on Thursday and discussed Iran, in a display of solidarity after the two allies differed publicly over what they fear is Tehran's drive towards nuclear weapons capability.

The vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld smiled broadly, exchanging pleasantries with Ehud Barak in his office in Tel Aviv in a brief video released by the Israeli Defense Ministry.

Barak later said that they had "discussed regional issues and Iran, of course".

The visit comes after General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismayed Israeli officials by saying that Washington did not want to be "complicit" in an Israeli attack on Iran.

Dempsey's comments were seen as a rebuke to Israel stepping up threats of making a unilateral strike against Iran's nuclear facilities before the U.S. presidential election on November 6.

Washington has urged Israel to hold off in order to give economic sanctions and diplomacy more time to curb Iran's uranium enrichment, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

"The challenge is shared by us both but our clocks are ticking at a different pace, we have our differences too, Israel retains its right to make sovereign decisions and the United States respects that," Barak said at a ceremony in Tel Aviv.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment on Winnefeld's visit, which Israeli Army Radio said began several days ago and included an inspection of Israel's Iron Dome rocket interception system, jointly funded with the United States.

In its press release, the Defense Ministry also included photographs of Winnefeld and Barak each appearing to measure, with their thumbs and index fingers, the size of Israel on a map of the Middle East on a wall in Barak's office.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Louise Ireland)