Israeli, US defense chiefs discuss Middle East issues

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak met to underscore a "strong US commitment to Israel's security," the Pentagon said.

US Defense Department spokesman George Little said in a statement that the two men "discussed a range of issues, and expressed their commitment to ensuring continued cooperation on many important regional issues -- particularly Syria, Iran, and Gaza."

"The secretary commended Minister Barak on his tireless efforts in advancing the US-Israel strategic relationship," Little said, adding the pair "reiterated the strong US commitment to Israel's security and the strong US-Israel defense relationship."

The meeting was the 11th for Barak and Panetta, who is leaving his post shortly.

President Barack Obama has nominated former US senator Chuck Hagel to succeed Panetta, a longtime Washington figure who has said he will be leaving public life.

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