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US fall deadline for Iran not coincidental
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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has given Iran a deadline until fall to respond positively to the request of US President Barack Obama to enter negotiations over its nuclear program.

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (R) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem July 27, 2009. [pool-Darren Whiteside/Xinhua]  

Gates made the comment after a meeting with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak on Monday. Analysts say the deadline will tie in with the opening of the UN General Assembly in September.

"I don't think the timing of these comments is coincidental," said Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel's defensive Arrow anti-missile program.

In his opinion, events in Tel Aviv dovetail with those in Moscow earlier this month, when Obama was hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

There is an attempt by politicians in some regions, including the United States, to present the Iranian threat merely as regional-- something that will not affect Europe or the US, said Rubin.

Yossi Mekelberg, an associate fellow at the London-based institute Chatham House, echoed that "when it comes to nuclear development, the timetable is very important, because there is a point of no return and that's the problem."

But Mekelberg said the fact that the US is setting a cut-off date for talks does not mean that a day after the deadline passes it will launch an attack on Iran. The possibilities after September are "open-ended", he said.

Analysts expect that at the 64th session of the UN General Assembly, to open on Sept. 15, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council would be divided on what level of non-military action can be taken in a bid to twist Iran's arm.

China and Russia are nowhere near as enthusiastic about a new round of sanctions as are France, Britain and the United States. Each of the five permanent members can veto proposed resolutions brought to the council for approval.

Given the standoff at the UN and other prevailing international pressures, Israel is increasingly aware that it may have to take the initiative when it comes to Iran's nuclear program.

Israel is now pushing to keep the Iranian issue at the top of the international agenda and to remind the world that Iran's capabilities go far beyond the Middle East.

In the meeting with Gates, Barak said Israel will rely on its own force to defend itself -- another clear signal that should Iran develop a nuclear weapon, Israel is prepared to take military action.

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