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Pentagon chief to visit Israel amid Iran talks

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Chief of the Israeli Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

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On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is due to appear in Jerusalem for a two-day visit, as the Biden administration aims for a return to the Iran nuclear deal: an approach that Israel opposes.

Austin is expected to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and the Chief of the Israeli Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

The visit will also comprise a tour of the Nevatim air force base, a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and to a Jerusalem memorial to descended soldiers.

Austin will conduct the visit days after delegates of the parties linked with the 2015 nuclear deal conducted talks in Vienna on readmitting the United States back into it.

Then-president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018.

The Vienna talks are engrossed not only on lifting incapacitating economic sanctions Trump reimposed but also on directing Iran back into compliance after it reported to have suspended several of its own pledges.

All sides said the discussions, in which Washington is not contributing directly but has the European Union as a middle power, had got off to a good start.

Israel opposes the US attempt to rejoin the accord. Speaking last week, Netanyahu said Israel would not be bound by its terms.

“An agreement with Iran that would pave the way to nuclear weapons — weapons that threaten our extinction — would not compel us in any way,” Netanyahu said in a speech on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Austin will also visit Germany, the United Kingdom, and Belgium on his tour, according to the Pentagon.

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