US, Israel discuss diplomatic push on Iran

Other News Materials 1 August 2008 07:44 (UTC +04:00)

US and Israeli officials discussed diplomatic efforts and financial sanctions to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the State Department said on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The West accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian program; Iran denies it. There has been speculation that either the United States or Israel could attack Iran's nuclear facilities, though both have said force should be a last resort.

The brief statement, issued after talks between senior officials from the United States and Israel in Washington, said nothing about the possibility of using force against Iran.

"The United States and Israel share deep concern about Iran's nuclear program, and the two delegations discussed steps to strengthen diplomatic efforts and financial measures to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability," the statement said.

It gave no details of the measures discussed.

"We also reaffirmed our strong mutual determination to counter Iran's support for terrorism," said the statement, which the State Department said was being issued by both the United States and Israel.

Western powers gave Iran two weeks from July 19 to respond to their offer to hold off on imposing more UN sanctions on Iran if Tehran would freeze any expansion of its nuclear work.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Iran would press ahead with its nuclear path.

Israel is believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, though it has never confirmed having nuclear weapons. Israel officially maintains that it will not be the first nation to introduce nuclear weapons in the region.

The US-Israeli talks were part of regular consultations between the two countries known as the "strategic dialogue." The delegations were led by US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Bill Burns, and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz.

Mofaz is considered a possible successor to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who plans to quit after his party chooses a new leader in September.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in New York this week that tough sanctions should be used to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but added that no options should be excluded.