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. US has never advised Israel against Iran strike: Olmert
WASHINGTON, Nov 25 (AFP) Nov 25, 2008
The United States has not pressured Israel to rule out military action in order to halt Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday after talks with President George W. Bush.

The outgoing prime minister, who ends what is probably his last visit to Washington in office, said he had "spoke at length with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the president on Iran."

"There is a basic, deep understanding about the Iranian threat and the need to act in order to remove threat," he told reporters.

Israel considers Iran its greatest threat, because of Tehran's accelerating nuclear program and repeated statements by its leaders predicting the Jewish state's demise.

Israel -- the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear power -- and the United States accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran has insisted its program is entirely peaceful.

The Jewish state has refused to rule out military response to the nuclear standoff and Olmert said on Tuesday that the Bush administration has never advised them against such action.

"I don't remember that anyone in the administration, including in the last couple of days, advised me or any other of my official representatives not to take any action that we will deem necessary for the fundamental security of the state of Israel, and that includes Iran," Olmert said.

As Bush prepares to leave the White House on January 20 and with Olmert set to step down amid a corruption scandal after February elections, the premier wanted to clinch new US commitments on Iran before president-elect Barack Obama takes office.

Officials said Olmert would press Bush and Congress to allow Israel to purchase dozens of F-35 stealth fighter jets, which would considerably boost the Israeli air force's ability to carry out long-range strikes.

The Pentagon has announced that Israel had asked to buy up to 75 jets, but Congress has yet to give the 15-billion dollar (12-billion euro) deal a green light.

Over the past year, the United States has considerably increased its already tight defense ties with its ally, giving the Jewish state an unprecedented 10-year, 30-billion dollar defense aid commitment.

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