Iran Still a Concern Amid U.S., Israel Meetings

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Iran was the main topic of discussion, Monday, as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with top Israeli officials in Jerusalem as part of a White House push for a broad Middle East peace agreement.

Gates is known in Israel for his strong statements, warning against any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.  In the Jerusalem meetings, he said Israel should know that the time for U.S. nuclear talks with Iran would be limited.

"I think we are in full agreement on the negative consequences of Iran obtaining this kind of capability," Gates said.  "I think we are also agreed that it is important to take every opportunity to try and persuade the Iranians to reconsider what is actually in their own security interest."

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak says his country will support U.S. talks along with strong sanctions, but he bluntly refused to rule out a military strike.

"We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table," he said.  "This is our policy.  We mean it."

"We are not blind," Barak continued.  "We know everything we do has implications on our neighbors. We take this into account, but ultimately we are committed to Israel's security interest."

Meanwhile, U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell also arrived in Israel after a trip to Damascus, where he tried to warm up America's relations with Syria, an Iranian partner in terrorism.

The Obama administration is trying to get the Arab world, including Syria, to support a broad Middle East peace plan where the Arab countries would recognize Israel, but the Palestinian Authority refuses to talk to Israel as long as it continues building homes for Jews in east Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says there will be no ban on living quarters for Jews in any part of Jerusalem, which most Israelis believe is the united eternal capital of Israel.

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