Israel sought high-tech weapons from US, official says
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Israel asked the US for high-tech weaponry suitable for use against Iran during this week's visit from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, an anonymous Israeli official said Thursday. The White House denies the reports.
REUTERS - Israel has asked the United States for advanced “bunker-buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s underground nuclear sites, an Israeli official said on Thursday.
“Such a request was made” around the time of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week, the official said, confirming media reports.
But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue, played down as “unrealistic” Israeli reports that the United States would condition supplying the hardware on Israel promising not to attack Iran this year.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked whether the Israelis had made such a request to U.S. officials during the visit, said “there was no such agreement proposed or reached” in President Barack Obama’s meetings with Netanyahu or his aides.
But when asked if the matter was raised with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta or other U.S. officials, Carney told reporters he had no information on that. “I would refer you to other officials,” he said.
Netanyahu made clear to Obama at a White House meeting on Monday that Israel had not yet decided on military action against Iran, the White House has said.
Netanyahu has hinted that Israel could resort to force should Tehran - which denies suspicions that it is covertly trying to develop atomic bombs - continue to defy big powers’ diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear program.
The risk of an Israeli-Iranian war troubles Obama, who is up for re-election in November and has cautioned against kindling more Middle East upheaval, though he has also asserted that military action remains an option if sanctions fail. A Gulf conflict could send oil prices soaring.
A front-page article in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv on Thursday said Obama had told Netanyahu that Washington would supply Israel with upgraded military equipment in return for assurances that there would be no attack on Iran in 2012.
Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal but its conventional firepower may not be enough to deliver lasting damage to Iran’s distant, dispersed and well-fortified facilities, many experts say.
Israel has limited stocks of older, smaller bunker-busters and a small fleet of refueling planes, all supplied by Washington.
Western powers suspect Iran’s uranium enrichment programme is aimed at stockpiling fissile material for nuclear weapons. Iran says it is strictly for civilian energy uses.
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