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Gates and Barak. Blaming Syria
Photo: Defense Ministry
Gates, Barak: Syria providing Hezbollah with missiles
Defense minister visits Pentagon, meets with his American counterpart who says Shiite organization now 'has more missiles and rockets than most governments in the world'. Barak: Syria supporting Hezbollah with weapon systems which could change delicate balance
WASHINGTON - Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with rockets and missiles of ever-increasing capability, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Tuesday following a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He added that the Shiite organization was at a point where it "has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world."

 

The two officials did not elaborate on the types of missiles, but the comments followed claims made in recent days that Hezbollah had received Scud missiles, which are capable of hitting wide areas within the State of Israel.

 

Barak said that Syria was providing Hezbollah with weapon systems which could change the delicate balance in Lebanon. He noted that Israel was closely watching the developments.

 

Barak and Gates avoided answering questions on the joint military exercise held by Turkey and Syria. Asked by Ynet whether Israel was concerned by the exercise, the defense minister replied that the Jewish state was strong enough to hold peace negotiations with its neighbors.

 

The US secretary of defense responded to claims that General David Petraeus said during a Congress hearing that the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was putting American soldiers in the Middle East in danger.

 

"General Petraeus did not say that the lack of progress in the peace process is costing American lives. And no one in this department, in or out of uniform, believes that," Gates said.  

 

"What we do believe is that the lack of progress in the peace process has provided political ammunition to our adversaries in the Middle East and in the region, and that progress in this arena will enable us not only to perhaps get others to support the peace process, but also support us in our efforts to try and impose effective sanctions against Iran."

Barak and Gates. 'US doing the right thing' (Photo: AP)

 

'Sanctions must be effective'

The Iranian threat was one of the main issues discussed during the meeting. Barak said that dealing with Iran's nuclear program was a challenge to world order. "The time is clearly, at this stage, the time for sanctions and diplomacy," he said.

 

He added that the United States was doing the right thing and was the only power capable of motivating the world and the Europeans to create efficient sanctions against Iran.

 

Barak said Israel expected sanctions to be "effective and to be limited in time so we will be able to judge to whether, what kind of results, stem from the sanctions regime."

 

His host said that he was satisfied with Pentagon planning to counter the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program. "I'm very satisfied with the planning process both within this building and in the inter-agency. We spend a lot of time on Iran and we'll continue to do so," Gates told reporters.

  

The defense minister's aides on Tuesday expressed their satisfaction with the series of meetings he held in Washington, which they said were excellent and resulted in many security-related achievements.

 

Earlier Tuesday, Barak met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. On Monday he met with US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

 

Reuters contributed to this report

 

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