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US, Azerbaijani defense chiefs discuss Iran

06 august 2013, 15:46
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US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Azerbaijan's Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev walk to the Pentagon. ©AFP
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Azerbaijan's Minister of Defense Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev walk to the Pentagon. ©AFP
US defense chief Chuck Hagel, meeting with his counterpart from Azerbaijan, said Monday it was imperative Iran quickly resolve concerns about its nuclear program, AFP reports.

Azerbaijan, which borders Iran, has friendly links with Tehran's arch-foe Israel. In March, 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 Defense Minister Safar Abiyev "discussed the regional situation," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

"Secretary Hagel raised the recent inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rowhani 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 Rowhani 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.

On July 14, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned 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, citing anonymous senior US 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 said the claims were untrue.

Hagel also thanked Abiyev for "the valuable role Azerbaijan plays in providing ground, air and sea transit access for logistical support to Afghanistan," Little said.

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