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US military chief to talk with Israelis

JERUSALEM - The top US military official will hold talks with Israeli officials this week, Israel said yesterday, at a time when the United States is concerned that Israel might be preparing to attack Iran over its nuclear program.

The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed the planned visit Thursday by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. It did not give his agenda for the talks, but Iran is expected to be at the top.

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Israel has repeatedly hinted it might take military action if international sanctions fail to stop Iran’s nuclear development. Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be a threat to its existence because of its nuclear program, missile capabilities, support for anti-Israel militants in Lebanon and Gaza, and frequent references by its president to the destruction of Israel.

The United States, Israel, and other Western nations believe that Iran is developing atomic weapons. Tehran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Dempsey’s visit will be his first official trip to Israel since he assumed leadership of the Joint Chiefs on Sept. 30. His predecessor, Admiral Mike Mullen, visited Israel several times during his four-year term.

The Obama administration is concerned that Iran’s recent statement that it is expanding nuclear operations with more advanced equipment may push Israel closer to a strike.

Washington still hopes that international pressure will persuade Iran to back down, but the Islamic regime shows no sign it would willingly give up.

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