US Military Chief Begins Talks In Israel On Iran

Published January 20, 2012 9:09AM (EST)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The top general of the U.S. military began an intense string of closed talks with Israeli leaders Friday, amid apparent disagreements between the two countries over how to handle Iran's nuclear program.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, and Israeli leaders are keeping silent about the exact content of their talks. Dempsey is expected to urge Israel not to rush to attack Iran at a time when the U.S. is trying to rally additional global support to pressure Tehran through sanctions.

At the start of a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday, Dempsey said the U.S. and Israel "have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time, and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we'll all be."

"There is never a dull moment," Barak replied, in comments released by the Israeli defense minister's office.

Israel believes Iran is close to developing the technology to building an atomic weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Israel has said it prefers employing international diplomacy to solve the problem, but Israel has not taken the option of a military strike off the table.

Israel considers Iran an existential threat because of its nuclear program, missile development, support of radical anti-Israel forces in Lebanon and Gaza and frequent references by its president to the destruction of Israel.

Dempsey also met with Israel's military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. Also on his tight Friday schedule are talks with Israel's prime minister and president,

In between the talks, Dempsey plans to visit Israel's Holocaust memorial and museum.

By Salon Staff

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