US, Israeli defence ministers meet for first time

Photo: US, Israeli defence ministers meet for first time  / Israel

Newly installed US Defence Minister Chuck Hagel met Tuesday with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, greeting him at the Pentagon with a handshake and a hug, DPA reported.

The meeting, which will focus on Iran and its nuclear programme, comes less than a week after Hagel was confirmed by the US Senate as defence secretary.

During the confirmation process he was criticized for his stance on Israel. He denied accusations by Republican senators that he had been insufficiently supportive of the Israeli government and promised to maintain the close relations between Washington and Jerusalem.

The Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, also attended the meetings at the Pentagon Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on its blog. Oren said last week after Hagel's confirmation that he was sure that ties between the two nations would grow stronger "as our countries continue to meet common challenges to our security."

Hagel formerly held a seat in the Senate representing the US state of Nebraska. He was confirmed Wednesday by a vote of 58-41 after a struggle with Republicans in the Senate over his past positions, including stated opposition to unilateral sanctions against Iran.

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