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Hagel Finalizes Arms Deal On Israel Visit

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (left) and his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon at a joint news conference at Kirya base in Tel Aviv on April 22.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (left) and his Israeli counterpart Moshe Yaalon at a joint news conference at Kirya base in Tel Aviv on April 22.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says a planned multibillion-dollar arms deal will help Israel maintain its qualitative military superiority in the region.

On a visit to Israel on April 22, Hagel met with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to finalize the details of the deal.

He indicated that the deal will see the United States provide Israel with advanced missiles and aircraft.

"The new radar and antiradiation missiles, along with Israel's participation in the joint strike fighter program, ensures that Israel will maintain air superiority for the next generation," hagel said. "The introduction of the V-22 [Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing] into the Israeli air force will give the Israeli air force long-range, high-speed maritime search and rescue capabilities to deal with a number of threats and contingencies."

Hagel arrived in Israel on April 21 at the start of a six-day regional tour expected to be dominated by concerns over Iran's nuclear program and Syria's civil war.

At a joint press conference after talks with Yaalon, Hagel maintained that military action remains possibility for stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"All military options and every option must remain on the table in dealing with Iran, that's been a consistent position of mine, regardless of the positions I've held as a United States senator and civilian," Hagel said. "I support the [U.S.] president's position on Iran, and it's very simple and I have stated it here and I have stated it many times as the president has. Our position is: Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon...Period."

Yaalon, a former chief of staff of the Israeli military, suggested that, like the rest of the international community, Israel also preferred a diplomatic solution to the standoff.

"By one way or another, the military nuclear project of Iran should be stopped," he said. "Having said that, we believe that the military option, which is well discussed, should be the last resort, anyhow. I believe this way regarding any conflict. There are other tools to be used and to be exhausted whether it is diplomacy, economic sanctions, or even moral support of the opposition in Iran."

But he said that "Without a military threat, there is no chance of stopping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb."

Iran denies seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

Hagel and Yaalon also discussed the ongoing conflict in Syria, and emphasized that the use of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal would cross a "red line."

Hagel also met Israeli President Shimon Peres April 22, and is due to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the following day.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa
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