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Israel defence minister leaves for US visit

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Jerusalem: Israeli Defence Minister Ehud
Barak has left for Washington on a two-day US trip expected to
include meetings with senior administration officials,
Israel`s defence ministry said on Monday.

"Minister of Defence Ehud Barak left this morning for a
two-day working visit in Washington DC. During the trip, the
minister will discuss a host of regional issues with a number
of leading figures in the administration," the ministry said
in a statement.

Barak is scheduled to meet with Vice President Joe Biden,
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, National Security Advisor Tom
Donilon, along with US senators and senior officials from the
intelligence and security establishment, it added.

The trip comes shortly before Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu is due in Washington on the second leg of a
North America tour.

Netanyahu will arrive in Washington after a stop in
Canada, and is scheduled to hold talks with US President Barak
Obama as well as addressing a meeting of the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee lobby group.

Both Barak and Netanyahu are expected to use their visits
to focus on the issue of Iran`s nuclear programme, which
Israel, Washington and much of the international community
fears masks a weapons drive.

Iran denies those charges, saying the programme is for
civilian energy and medical purposes, but has been hit by
increasingly tough international sanctions aimed at forcing
Tehran to halt its uranium enrichment activities.

Israel has also made clear it is keeping all options,
including a military strike, on the table to deal with the
nuclear programme, raising fears that it could be considering
an attack on Iran later this year.


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