Hagel: Iran Must Resolve Nuclear Concerns
U.S. defense chief Chuck Hagel, meeting with his counterpart from Azerbaijan, said on Monday that it was imperative that Iran quickly resolve concerns about its nuclear program, AFP reported.
Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, has friendly links with Israel. In March of 2012, it denied allegations it had granted the Jewish state access to its air bases, which could assist in potential strikes against Iran.
Among other issues, Hagel and Azeri Defense Minister Safar Abiyev "discussed the regional situation," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"Secretary Hagel raised the recent inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and reiterated that it is imperative that Iran take quick steps to resolve the international community's deep concerns over its nuclear program," he added.
The West is hoping Rouhani will take a more constructive approach in long-running talks on Tehran's controversial atomic drive, which despite Iranian denials is suspected by world powers of having military objectives.
The White House said on Sunday that Iran will find the United States a "willing partner" if Rouhani is prepared for serious talks on its nuclear program.
Rouhani has indicated he would like a less confrontational approach to nuclear talks with six world powers than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the same time he stressed soon after his election that Tehran would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely.
On July 14, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned in an interview with CBS that Iran was moving "closer and closer" to building a nuclear weapon and that Israel may have to take unilateral action to stop it.
An article in Foreign Policy magazine in March of 2012, citing anonymous senior U.S. diplomats and military intelligence officers, suggested cooperation between Azerbaijan and Israel was "heightening the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran."
The article suggested access to Azerbaijani airfields near the Iranian border could give Israeli fighter planes logistical advantages in carrying out sorties against nuclear facilities in Iran, which the Jewish state suspects of developing atomic weapons
The Azerbaijani defense ministry later said the claims were untrue.