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Gates, Israeli Counterpart Discuss Security Issues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was slated to host Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack at the Pentagon today to continue their ongoing discussions about a broad range of security issues, including Iran, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Morrell  called the scheduled afternoon session, their fourth over the past year, an opportunity for Gates to reaffirm the United States’ “unshakable commitment to Israeli security.”

The two were expected to discuss issues related to bilateral security cooperation, particularly ballistic missile defense, and the Middle East peace process.

Part of the discussion likely will address Army Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton’s work overseeing training of Palestinian Authority security forces in his role as U.S. security coordinator for the Israel-Palestinian Authority. The intent, Morrell explained, is to build confidence in Israel that the Palestinian Authority is able to maintain security within its boundaries and prevent attacks from the West Bank or Gaza that threaten innocent Israelis.

Iran’s nuclear program also was expected to be a major agenda item at today’s meeting. Israel and the United States share concerns about Iran’s activities, particularly its “failure to respond to a year of sustained and genuine outreach,” Morrell said.

This “has left the international community no choice” but to pursue robust sanctions, he added.

Morrell emphasized that the United States has not given up on its attempts to engage with Iran, despite past efforts he conceded have been “largely spurned.”

“Even as we go down the pressure track, even as we go around the world trying to solicit support from our allies to bring sanctions against Iran to make them compliant with international strictures on their nuclear program, we keep that door open to engagement,” he said. “Just because we’re down the pressure track doesn’t mean the engagement track is closed off.”

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