Hagel en route to Israel as Iran becomes more defiant

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 |  Israel Today Staff

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is scheduled to arrive in Israel on April 21 in what is seen locally as an "urgent" visit, just as Iran is becoming increasingly defiant in its nuclear program.

Hagel had promised to visit Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon after both were appointed to their new positions earlier this year. But the timing of the visit was "very surprising, certainly in its urgency," according to Army Radio.

The Iran nuclear threat is expected to be the main topic of discussion between Hagel and Ya'alon.

Iran on Tuesday marked its "National Nuclear Technology Day" by announcing the opening of two new uranium mines and a new plant capable of producing 60 tonnes of raw uranium (also known as "yellow cake") per year.

Days earlier, talks between international powers and Iran over its nuclear program broke down. European officials said Iran had submitted proposals that were already rejected during talks last year. This is unsurprising, as Israel has been warning for years that Iran is simply playing a stalling game until it can successfully test a nuclear weapon.

While it is still unclear if the US would back military action against Iran if diplomatic efforts fail, and Hagel himself has been an opponent of that position, visit US Secretary of State John Kerry told Israel this week that President Barack Obama was "very serious" when he recently committed the US to preventing Iran from attaining atomic weapons.

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