INTERNATIONAL: Obama Makes Pledge over Israel-US Relations

Article excerpt

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama promised yesterday he would preserve the close relationship between the US and Israel.

During a meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres he declared: "I'm here to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the US and my abiding commitment to Israel's security and my hope I can serve as an effective partner, whether as US senator or president."

Mr Obama, after vowing to immediately work for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations if elected US president, plunged into the intricacies of the region's conflict with a packed schedule of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He visited Israel's Holocaust memorial and met Mr Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

Iran also was expected to figure high on the agenda.

Many Israelis are uncomfortable with Mr Obama's willingness to talk to Tehran.

Mr Barak's office said they discussed "all the relevant issues" and the "future challenges facing Israel and the region" - which meant probably Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and Israel's determination that Iran not be allowed to build atomic bombs. …