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Briefly: Middle East
Iran kicks off air-defense war games
TEHRAN | Iran kicked off five days of air-defense war games Tuesday to display the country’s capabilities in protecting its nuclear facilities from possible attack, state television reported.
The drill, which comes as Iran is locked in a standoff with the United States and its European allies over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, aims to “upgrade the combat preparedness” of Iran’s air-defense system, an Iranian air force general said.
“These large-scale military maneuvers … will further improve preparedness to confront possible threats to Iran’s airspace and the very populated, vital landmarks and nuclear centers,” Gen. Ahmad Mighani was quoted as saying by state TV.
The U.S. and its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, while Tehran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. Israel has hinted it might take military action against Iran if international efforts to curb its nuclear program fail.
During Tuesday’s exercises, Iran activated its air-defense system at nuclear facilities across the country, said Gen. Hamid Arjangi, a spokesman for the maneuvers. He said Iranian forces successfully repelled hypothetical enemy planes from reaching nuclear and industrial sites.
Official: U.S. plan for Mideast hits snag
JERUSALEM | An Israeli official says a vote on an emerging U.S. proposal for restarting Mideast peace talks has been put on hold.
The plan would have Israel freeze new West Bank settlement construction for 90 days to persuade the Palestinians to resume talks. In exchange, Israel would get American military and diplomatic support.
The official said Tuesday that Israel is still waiting for a written U.S. proposal. The official also claimed that the Palestinians have raised objections. The delays mean a Wednesday vote won’t take place.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity under civil-service guidelines.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Israel of playing a premature “blame game.” He said the Palestinians will have no reaction until they see the plan on Wednesday.
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