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Iran's nuclear programme focuses Israeli Defence Minister's visit to the United States

Benny Gantz will meet with the Pentagon's high-ranking officials in Washington in an uncertain context for bilateral relations
Benny Gantz

PHOTO/ARCHIVO  -   El ministro de Defensa de Israel, Benny Gantz

The Iranian nuclear programme is the focus of a visit to the United States by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who arrived in Washington on Wednesday to meet with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. 

"I will discuss strengthening joint security cooperation and addressing regional challenges, including Iran, against which all moderate actors in the region must unite," Gantz said last night shortly before departing for the US. 

Gantz will also discuss with Austin and Sullivan, in addition to Iran, the war in Ukraine, and the risks to Israel's geostrategic alliance with Russia in Syria, where the two countries are coordinating bombing raids despite being on opposite sides. 

"We will also discuss about Ukraine and other issues important to global, regional and Israeli security," Gantz added. 

The minister's visit also comes at a sensitive time with the United States, which has protested over the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, last week during an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank, as well as the decision to authorise the construction of 4,000 new homes in Jewish settlements. 

According to Gantz's schedule, he will arrive in Washington on Wednesday afternoon to meet with Sullivan at the White House and on Thursday morning with Lloyd at the Pentagon, with whom he last met in the same place in December. 

On Thursday afternoon he will leave for Miami to participate in an event with families of Israeli servicemen killed in service; and on Sunday he will fly to New York, where he will march in the city's annual parade to honour Israel, after a two-year break, and there he will deliver another speech at another event for bereaved families. 

Gantz warned yesterday at a security conference that Iran is "a few weeks" away from accumulating enough fissile material for an atomic bomb and is working to complete the production and installation of 1,000 advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium. 

"It has 60 kilos of 60 % enriched material, produces uranium metal at the 20 % enrichment level and prevents the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) from accessing its facilities," he said during a lecture at Reichman University in Herzliya. 

Talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled and there are concerns that Iran could be closer to being able to build an atomic weapon.