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U.S.-Israel security ties "stronger, tighter than ever": defense minister

(Xinhua)

10:32, August 02, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, Aug. 1, 2012. (Xinhua/GPO/Moshe Milner)

TEL AVIV, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv.

"The relationship between Israel and America in the security field is stronger and tighter than ever," Barak said before the two began their meeting, which analysts expect will cover the increasing violence in Syria and tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.

Calling Panetta "a true friend to the State of Israel," Barak stressed that the allies "have many shared interests, and we will certainly be busy. There is much to discuss."

Panetta, who arrived Tuesday evening from meetings in Tunisia and Egypt, said upon his departure from Cairo that he and Barak would be covering "various contingencies," but demurred as to whether the two planned to discuss "potential attack plans" against Iran or Syria.

"We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area," Panetta said, but added that "the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we're confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that."

Before going into Wednesday's meeting, Panetta said, "It's because our countries have a strong bond, not only of friendship, but of security -- working together to make sure that we have the strongest defense, and that we can do everything we can to defend both of our countries."

Panetta is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres later Wednesday, and will head for his last regional stop in Jordan on Thursday.

Tuesday evening, Netanyahu said he is still deliberating whether or not to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, and downplayed report that the military echelon is not in favor of attacking Iran.

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