Pentagon Chief Austin Reaffirms US Alliance With Israel
By VOA News April 11, 2021
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Israeli counterpart Benny Gantz on Sunday during a two-day trip to the Middle Eastern country.
"We addressed a broad range of defense issues, to include Israel's long-term planning for defense acquisitions, and regional security challenges, and U.S. support for efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim majority nations," Austin told reporters.
Austin also reiterated the United States' commitment to a strong alliance with Israel and noted that his visit came shortly after Remembrance Day, which honors the 6 million Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust.
Austin is the first high-level member from U.S. President Joe Biden's Cabinet to travel to Israel since the administration announced it would enter talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a staunch critic of the deal and welcomed former President Donald Trump's withdrawing from the pact.
But Gantz said Sunday that Israel will cooperate with the United States on Iran.
"Israel views the United States as a full partner across all operational theaters, not the least Iran," Gantz told reporters.
"I'm committed to continuing our close consultations on threats posed by Iran and to strengthening Israel's security," Austin wrote on Twitter Sunday.
Last week, Netanyahu said that an agreement with Iran "would pave the way to nuclear weapons â€” weapons that threaten our extinction."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier announced the inauguration of a cascade of 164 centrifuges for producing enriched uranium, as well as two test cascades of 30 centrifuges each at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment plant, in a ceremony broadcast by state television.
There was a blackout Sunday of Natanz's electrical grid, but no injuries or contamination were reported.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, called the blackout an act of "nuclear terrorism" without naming a suspect. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
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