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US military chief to visit Israel as Iran tension grows

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US Army chief General Martin Dempsey.

JERUSALEM (AP): The top US military commander is scheduled for talks here this week, Israel said Sunday, at a time when the US is concerned that Israel might be preparing to attack Iran over its nuclear programme.

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

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat because of its nuclear programme, missile capabilities, support for anti-Israel militants in Lebanon and Gaza and frequent references by its president to the destruction of Israel.

Israel has repeatedly hinted it might take military action if international sanctions fail to stop Iran's nuclear development.

The US, Israel and other Western nations believe Iran is developing atomic weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

Dempsey's visit will be his first official trip to Israel since he assumed command of the joint chiefs on September 30. His predecessor, Admiral Mike Mullen, made several visits to Israel during his four-year term.

On Thursday President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the Iran situation in a telephone conversation.

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

The US still hopes that international pressure will persuade Iran to back down, but the Islamic regime shows no sign it would willingly give up a project that has become a point of national pride.

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US  Israel  Military  
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