U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says a major U.S. arms deal with Israel sends a "very clear signal" to Iran that military activity remains an option to keep Tehran from developing or using nuclear weapons.
Hagel was questioned on the issue Sunday as his plane approached Tel Aviv at the start of a six-day tour of the region.
The visit is focused on arms sales to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, and talks on Iran and Syria.
Asked about whether Israel might consider a military strike on Iran, Hagel said "Israel will make the decisions that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself." But he added that the United States and other nations still believe there is time for negotiations and tough sanctions to have an impact on Iran's nuclear plans. He said Israel and the United States may have some differences on the question of timing.
After his visit to Israel, Hagel is scheduled to make stops in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, all important Middle East allies to the United States, worried about the unrest in Syria. Saudi Arabia is vying to buy advanced air-launched missiles from the U.S., while the United Arab Emirates hopes to obtain a number of F-16 fighter jets.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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