US national security advisor discusses Iran with Israelis

July 30th, 2009 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Jerusalem, July 29 (DPA) US National Security Advisor James Jones was in Israel Wednesday for briefings related to Iran’s nuclear programme, in the midst of a week of intense US-Israeli diplomacy.
General Jones heard updates from senior Israeli security officials, before scheduled meetings with Israel Army Chief of Staff Gaby Ashkenazi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day.

The national security advisor landed in Israel Tuesday, heading a 15-member delegation of top US officials who also deal with Iran, including special State Department advisor Dennis Ross and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns.

He arrived on the heels of US President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who were in the region earlier this week.

While Mitchell discussed the disagreement over Israeli settlement construction and efforts to move toward a renewal of peace talks, Gates’ talks in Jerusalem Monday also focussed on Iran.

Gates’ and Jones’ separate visits come amid ever-rising speculation over whether Israel intends to strike Iranian nuclear facilities from the air.

The hardline Netanyahu government, which took office four months ago following elections Feb 10, has called stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons a top priority.

It says it prefers much tougher international sanctions, but Defence Minister Ehud Barak reiterated after his talks with Gates Monday that the military option had not been taken off the table.

The speculation further intensified after three Israeli Dolphin-class submarines sailed through the Suez canal last month, in what Israeli defence officials described as a naval drill aimed at showing Israel’s strategic reach in the face of Iran.

US officials have sent out mixed signals as to whether it unequivocally opposes an Israeli strike in Iran.

Vice President Joe Biden told US broadcaster ABC earlier this month that Washington could not dictate to a sovereign nation what it could or could not do to safeguard its security. Obama himself then flatly denied this meant a “green light” for Israel to attack Iran.

Israeli experts on Iran generally agree that a military strike would be difficult to carry out and would set Iran’s nuclear programme back only a few years.

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