US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has promised Israel the United States will be "clear-eyed" and committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons as Washington pursues engagement.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, whose government has pressed for a hard line, visited Washington a week before Iran meets six nations to ease international concerns on its nuclear program that have triggered a US-led campaign of sanctions.
"Secretary Hagel noted that while the United States intends to test the prospect for a diplomatic solution with Iran we remain clear-eyed about the challenges ahead," Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
The United States "will not waver from our firm policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," he said.
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Iran's newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, a self-styled moderate, sought to ease longstanding tensions with the West during a week-long visit to the United States, culminating in an unprecedented telephone call with US President Barack Obama on September 27.
Iran's US-educated foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has said he hopes to reach a settlement over Tehran's nuclear program within a year and will present a package during October 15-16 talks in Geneva with the United States and five other powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Iran says that its uranium enrichment work is for peaceful purposes. But Western powers and Israel, which is believed to have a clandestine nuclear program, charge that the Islamic republic is seeking an atomic bomb.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged no let-up in pressure on Iran and not ruled out a military strike.
Hagel, a former Republican senator and Vietnam veteran turned opponent of the Iraq war, has tried to reassure Israel after facing stiff opposition to his nomination following his remark that a "Jewish lobby" was intimidating lawmakers in Washington.