U.S. defense chief arrives in Israel, talks Iran

April 21, 2013 at 8:42 PM
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JERUSALEM, April 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the United States and Israel need to "keep our eye focused on the objective" regarding Iran.

Hagel landed in Israel Sunday for the start of a weeklong visit to the Middle East, The New York Times reported.

Hagel said he acknowledged the United States and Israel have different timelines in which Iran might develop nuclear weapons -- Israel believes Iran may create nuclear weapons much sooner than Washington does.

"I think it's important that we all keep our eye focused on the objective," he said. "And there is no daylight there at all -- that Iran is prevented from acquiring that nuclear capacity."

Hagel added tough multilateral economic sanctions being put on Iran are slowing the country's nuclear pursuits.

"We know through many measurements that those sanctions are hurting Iran -- significantly," Hagel said.

While in the Middle East, Hagel is expected to finalize a $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, officials said. He has already met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and President Shimon Peres.

Hagel and Ya'alon are expected to discuss the sale of V-22 Osprey aircraft, Boeing KC-135 military refueling planes, advanced radar systems for fighter jets and anti-air defense missiles to Israel, Israel's television Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported.

The arms deal with Israel is one of a number of deals Hagel is expected to conclude during his visit -- part of Washington's strategy to enhance the defense capabilities of its Middle East allies, the reports said.

The Iranian nuclear threat and the situation in Syria are expected to be high on the agenda of topics the American defense chief will discuss with Israeli officials, Haaretz said.

After Israel, Hagel will travel to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

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