Barak (right) with Gates, 2007
Barak (right) with Gates, 2007Photo: US Defense Dept., US Air Force Tech. S

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak both warned visiting United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates Monday that Israel takes the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program very seriously.

Barak told reporters that he informed the American official of Israel's intention to keep all options open when it comes to dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat. “This is our position. We mean it,” he warned.

Barak expressed support for attempting to deal with the issue through diplomacy, but urged the U.S. to set a deadline for talks, something American leaders have so far declined to do.

Netanyahu's aides described the prime minister's meeting with Gates as “highly positive.” Gates told Netanyahu that Israel and the U.S. “see eye-to-eye” on Iran, and assured him that American attempts through diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb would be limited.

Prior to his meeting with Gates, Barak praised U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. “We clearly need the leadership of the other state as well as your experience and wisdom in the attempt to achieve,” he said, adding that Israel would “take whatever effort” necessary to make peace with the Palestinian Authority.

Mitchell has said that the U.S. would be asking Israel to “take steps” towards regional peace. Regional peace is “President Obama's personal objective vision,” he said.

Mitchell will meet Tuesday with Netanyahu. Two earlier meetings between the two were cancelled or postponed.