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Israel defence minister leaves for US visit

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak to visit US a week before PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran's nuclear programme tops issues to be discuessed

AFP , Monday 27 Feb 2012
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Views: 1062

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 on Sunday, after a stop in Canada, and is scheduled to hold talks with US President Barak Obama the next day, 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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