December 10, 2007

Israel and US discussed security issues in Tel Aviv

US military chief Admiral Michael Mullen met senior Israeli defence officials in the first visit to the Jewish state by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State in a decade. Mullen met his Israeli counterpart Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi and Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv. The issue of Iran was discussed during the talks. Israel and the United States accuse Iran of trying to obtain atomic weapons under cover of its civil nuclear programme, a charge Tehran vehemently denies.

The Jewish state has vowed to keep up its campaign for more sanctions to be imposed on Iran despite a US intelligence report last week that said Tehran had frozen its nuclear weapons drive in 2003. The National Intelligence Estimate -- the consensus view of all 16 US spy agencies -- said that US allegations about Iran's atomic goals had been overblown for at least two years, although it could have the capability to make a nuclear weapon by 2015. The revised assessment prompted China and Russia -- both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council -- to question the US case for further sanctions. Widely regarded as the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power, Israel regards Iran as its main enemy after repeated calls by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.

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