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JERUSALEM — Defense Secretary Robert Gates stood shoulder to shoulder with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday to assure Israel — and warn Iran — that Washington’s patience with Tehran’s nuclear endeavors would not last long beyond the end of the year.

“The president has been quite clear that this is not an open-ended offer to engage,” Gates said. “We are very mindful of the possibility that the Iranians may simply try to run out the clock.”

Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, again raised the possibility of missile strikes against Iranian targets, but said they would be quick and followed immediately followed by sanctions and inspections of Iranian nuclear capabilities.

“No option should be removed from the table,” said Barak. “This is our policy. We mean it.

“It wouldn’t take much time to clarify whether Iran is trying to keep defying the whole world, or is seriously ready to cooperate.”

Gates met with Barak for roughly an hour before visiting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Barak continued Israel’s stronger threatening overtones while Gates said the U.S. would seek to convince Iranians that their security lies within a U.S.-led regional security blanket.

He stressed diplomacy and listed several approaches to induce Iranian cooperation, including economic sanctions.

“Another path, on the diplomatic and security side, is trying to persuade the Iranians that their own security interests are diminished by their policies, not enhanced,” he said. “And that their security actually would — it would be better off without nuclear weapons, partly because it would be destabilizing, partly because it might set off an arms race in the Middle East.”

On Friday, senior defense officials stressed that U.S. and Israeli intelligence estimates on Iran’s progress for nuclear material was roughly the same.

The administration has put an offer of unconditional talks on the table for Tehran, and President Obama has said he wants a response by the end of September, with some Iranian action by the end of the year.

The Pentagon officials said they were confident Israel would not strike suspected Iranian targets within that window.

“The president is certainly anticipating or hoping for some kind of response this fall, perhaps by the time of the U.N. General Assembly,” Gates said.

The secretary briefly waded into the peace process, with former Sen. George Mitchell in Israel to renew those efforts.

“I’m encouraged that all parties share the vision of two states, and further encouraged by Special Envoy Mitchell’s efforts to bring everyone together,” Gates said. “While we know that forging a last peace will not be quick or easy, we also know that peace is in the interest of all countries in the region, that it is the only way that Israelis and Palestinians alike can enjoy the safety and security they deserve.”


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