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222 words - March 7, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
On March 5, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held his first meeting with a foreign counterpart since he took office. He held talks at the Pentagon with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on issues including Syria and Iran. With a view to downplaying the apparent coldness of the relations between the Netanyahu and the Obama administrations, Mr Hagel first told Mr Barak that the United States remains committed to Israel's security. He also confirmed the continuing support for "missile and rocket defense systems" within the framework of "Israel's qualitative military edge." The two officials agreed the bilateral defense relationship has never been stronger and pointed out Iran and Syria as their two same main concerns. On Syria, the main threat comes from the chemical and biological weapons which could be either used by the Assad regime or fall into extremists' hands, they said. Regarding Iran which Central Command (CENTCOM)'s chief described this week as the "most-single threat to stability", both defense officials believe "there is still time" for diplomacy, not so much however. Preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon remains the top priority, Pentagon Spokesman George Little said. Mr Hagel reiterated the determination of the Obama administration to address the Iranian threat "with all options on the table."
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