Panetta: no Iran attack plans to be discussed with Israel (REUTERS) By Phil Stewart CAIRO, EGYPT 07/31/12 1:53pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta denied media
reports on Tuesday that he would discuss possible military attack
plans against Iran during a brief visit to Israel.
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo shortly before departing for
Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about "various
contingencies", but said specific military plans would not be put
"I think it´s the wrong characterization to say we are going to be
discussing potential attack plans. What we are discussing are various
contingencies and how we would respond," he said.
Asked whether these included military options, he said: "We obviously
continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the
discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more
about what is the threat that we´re confronting and to try to share
both information and intelligence on that."
Western powers believe Iran is seeking the technology to build a
nuclear bomb and Israel has repeatedly hinted it might use force to
try to halt its arch foe´s atomic program. Tehran says its nuclear
work is for peaceful purposes.
The United States has said it is determined to prevent Iran from
getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to give more time for
increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.
"Both of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not
develop a nuclear weapon and to that extent we continue to work
together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point
of developing a nuclear weapon," Panetta said.
Top selling Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said on Tuesday that
Panetta intended to show Israeli leaders the plans being drawn up by
the Pentagon to stop Iran if diplomacy and sanctions failed to
persuade Tehran to halt its nuclear program.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had not yet decided
whether to attack Iran´s nuclear facilities, dismissing repeated
media reports that the military objected to such an operation against
far-flung, fortified Iranian sites.
"In Israeli democracy, as in any democracy, the political echelon is
the one that decides and the professional echelon (the military)
executes. I have not yet made a decision," he told Israel´s Channel
Two news on Tuesday evening.
He added that the debate in the media about a possible offensive
was "harmful" and "not serious".
The Israeli army chief, Benny Gantz, told reporters in Tel Aviv
earlier in the day that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were ready
to attack Iran if ordered to.
"The IDF is ready and prepared for action and as we see it ´all
options are on the table´ is not a slogan, it is a working plan and
we are doing it," he said, referring to a line often repeated by
Israeli politicians when discussing Iran.
Panetta is due to meet his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak, and
Netanyahu during his stay in Israel, part of a broader trip to the
Middle East and Africa.
A senior Israeli official on Sunday denied a separate newspaper
report that President Barack Obama´s national security adviser had
briefed Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should
diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear ambitions.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by
Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo) (© Thomson Reuters
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