Mon, Feb 20, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Netanyahu meeting US officials amid Iran tensions

AFP, JERUSALEM and TEHRAN

A top US security official was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday amid rising concerns over Iran and ahead of a trip by the Israeli prime minister to Washington.

The White House said that US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon would talk to senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Syria. An Israeli official said he was scheduled to meet Netanyahu yesterday afternoon.

The visit comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, and in the wake of attacks on Israeli diplomats blamed on agents of Tehran.

In recent weeks, there has been feverish speculation that Israel was getting closer to mounting a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program, though Israel has denied reaching such a decision.

Iranian warships have also entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, a move Israel said it would closely monitor.

Israeli media yesterday quoted a CNN interview with the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in which he warned that an Israeli military strike on Iran would be “destabilizing.”

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying in a transcript of the interview to be broadcast yesterday.

“The US government is confident that the Israelis understand our concerns,” the paper quoted Dempsey as saying. “A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve [Israel’s] long-term objectives.”

Former Israeli national security adviser Uzi Dayan said that Dempsey’s choice of words was significant.

“I would emphasize Martin Dempsey’s use of the phrase ‘at this point,’” he told Israel public radio, pointing to Iran’s latest offer to resume stalled nuclear talks with the five permanent UN Security Council members — the US, Russia, China, France and Britain — plus Germany.

Iran wants a “win-win” solution to emerge from mooted nuclear talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear program that should begin as soon as possible, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said yesterday.

Salehi, speaking at a joint media conference with his visiting Nicaraguan counterpart, stressed that Tehran favored Istanbul as the venue for the talks, but was waiting for the EU to present its proposal.

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