Washington: US Defence Secretary Robert
Gates held talks with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on the threat posed by Iran and the latest Middle East peace
efforts, a spokesman said.
A day before his meeting, Barak said that tensions over
Iran`s nuclear program were still at the diplomatic stage and
that tougher sanctions might persuade Tehran to switch course.
"This was their sixth meeting this year, and today`s
talks touched on everything from the recent wildfires in
Israel to ongoing peace process efforts to the challenges
posed by Iran," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said in
The morning session covered "a range of bilateral and
regional security issues," he said.
Barak also was scheduled to meet the CIA director, Leon
Panetta, and President Barack Obama`s national security
adviser, Tom Donilon.
Israel has often voiced impatience with Western diplomacy
towards Iran but Barak said on Sunday that a new round of
sanctions could still bear fruit.
"I still believe that much more active sanctions can
cause the regime to have a second thought" about pursuing nuclear weapons, he told CNN in an interview.
The US and other major powers recently resumed diplomatic
talks with Iran over the country`s disputed nuclear project,
which Tehran insists is designed for purely peaceful purposes.
Israel and the United States have refused to rule out
military action to halt Iran`s uranium enrichment work, but
Gates and other top officials have said any strike likely
would only delay the nuclear program for a few years.
The visit also came amid a bid by Washington this week to
salvage Middle East peace negotiations, with US Middle East
envoy George Mitchell arriving in Jerusalem as part of a
return to indirect talks.