JERUSALEM, Aug. 1, 2012 - Iranian nuclear ambitions dominated discussions between Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu here today.
The Israeli leader stated there is no greater challenge than stopping Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
"Everything must be done to keep Iran, the world's most dangerous regime, from developing the world's most dangerous weapons," he said before his meeting with Panetta.
Panetta was direct and unequivocal in his reply to the prime minister. The United States, he said, "will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Period."
While both countries are united in that goal, they disagree on timing and tactics. Netanyahu said sanctions are having an effect on Iran, but are not working fast enough. "Neither sanctions nor diplomacy have yet had any impact on Iran's nuclear weapons program," he said.
The sanctions, economic pressure and forceful statements, "have not convinced Iran that we are serious about stopping them," the prime minister said.
"Right now, the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have the will to stop its nuclear program," he added. "This must change, and it must change quickly, because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running out."
Panetta said continued close defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli militaries is important because of the huge changes in the Middle East and North Africa in the past two years. In addition to Iran, the civil war in Syria is costing thousands of lives. Egypt has its first democratically elected president, and the country is moving to build the infrastructure to support democracy. Threats from terror groups -- some supported by Iran -- threaten not only Israel but the world, Panetta said.
In this time of change, the United States remains a firm friend and ally to Israel, Panetta said.
"I want you and the people of Israel to know a few things that have not and will not change," he said. "The United States stands firmly with Israel and we have a rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens."