Bloomberg News

Israeli Foreign Minister Travels to Washington to Discuss Iran

February 05, 2012

Feb. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman will travel to the U.S. tonight to discuss security matters amid signs the allies disagree over a potential attack on Iran’s disputed nuclear facilities.

Among the issues Liberman will discuss in Washington is the impact of the recent European Union decision to place sanctions on Iranian oil exports and its central bank beginning this summer, an Israeli foreign ministry official said. The official declined to be identified, citing government policy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington in early March, and he will speak at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israeli government announced today.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Feb. 2 that the country must consider conducting “an operation” before Iran reaches an “immunity zone,” referring to Iran’s goal of protecting its uranium enrichment and other nuclear operations by moving them to deep underground facilities.

“The world has no doubt that Iran’s nuclear program is steadily nearing readiness and is about to enter an immunity zone,” Barak said in an address to the annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center campus north of Tel Aviv. “If the sanctions don’t achieve their goal of halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program, there will arise the need of weighing an operation.”

‘Time and Space’

The U.S. holds the view that “there is still time and space to pursue diplomacy” with Iran over its nuclear program, Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said today in Washington. The U.S. “is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Toner said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to comment directly on a report by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June. Panetta and other U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Israel not to act alone.

--Editors: Kristen Hallam, Linda Shen

To contact the reporter on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net; Dick Schumacher at dschumacher@bloomberg.net


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