Last Updated: Sun Feb 19, 2012 13:35 pm (KSA) 10:35 am (GMT)

Netanyahu meeting U.S. security official amid Iran tensions

The White House has said that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon would talk to senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Syria. (File photo)
The White House has said that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon would talk to senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Syria. (File photo)

A top U.S. security official was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday amid rising concerns over Iran and ahead of a trip by the Israeli premier to Washington.

The White House has said that National Security Advisor Tom Donilon would talk to senior Israeli officials on a range of issues, including Syria. An Israeli official said he would meet Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon.

The visit comes at a time of heightened tension between Israel and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program, and in the wake of attacks on Israeli diplomats blamed on agents of Tehran.

In recent weeks, there has been feverish speculation that Israel was getting closer to mounting a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program, though Israel has denied reaching such a decision.

Tensions between Iran and Israel also have been simmering with Iranian warships entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal in a show of “might”, a move Israel said it would closely monitor.

Israeli media on Sunday quoted a CNN interview with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, in which he warns that an Israeli military strike on Iran would be “destabilizing.”

“It’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran,” the Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying in a transcript of the interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

“The U.S. government is confident that the Israelis understand our concerns,” the paper quoted Dempsey as saying.

“A strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve (Israel’s) long-term objectives.”

Former Israeli national security advisor and ex-general Uzi Dayan said that Dempsey’s choice of words was significant.

“I would emphasize Martin Dempsey’s use of the phrase ‘at this point,’” he told Israel public radio, pointing to Iran’s latest offer to resume stalled nuclear talks with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members − the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain − plus Germany.

The United States, other Western powers and Israel believe that Iran is seeking to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran denies the charge, insisting its atomic program is for purely peaceful purposes.

Donilon’s trip comes ahead of a visit in early March by Netanyahu to Washington for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama which are likely to focus on Iran and the failure to find a deal on resuming direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

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