US Wants Iran Answer on Nuclear Talks by September
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Obama administration hopes Iran will respond to an offer for talks on its nuclear program soon.
Gates spoke in Israel, where he is discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions with top officials. He said Washington hopes Iran will answer the diplomatic overture in time for the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in September.
While in Israel, Gates is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. U.S. envoy George Mitchell held talks with Barak on Sunday and meets Mr. Netanyahu on Tuesday.
Gates and Mitchell are on separate trips in the Middle East as part of a U.S. push for peace in the region.
After talks in Syria Sunday, Mitchell said U.S. President Barack Obama is determined to facilitate a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors.
The American diplomat said resuming peace negotiations between Syria and Israel is a "near-term goal."
The U.S. special envoy to the Middle East is now in Egypt to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process with President Hosni Mubarak. He will then travel to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mitchell's agenda includes pressing Israel to halt Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank and disputed East Jerusalem.
Israel has rejected U.S. demands for a total freeze on settlement construction, souring relations with Washington. But Prime Minister Netanyahu has downplayed the disagreement.
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