President Shimon Peres meets U.S. Defense Secretary upon arrival at the Pentagon, June 11, 2012.
President Shimon Peres meets U.S. Defense Secretary upon arrival at the Pentagon, June 11, 2012. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peres' military aide Hasson Hasson and Israeli military attache to the United States, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni on June 11, 2012. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya

President Shimon Peres denounced Iran in a meeting with U.S. military officials on Monday, warning against its "imperialistic ambitions based on religion."

"No responsible country in the world can accept the situation in which the Middle East falls victim to Iranian hegemony," Peres said, which he described as "the Ayatollah's wish". While stressing that he respects the diplomatic process, Peres added that "time is running out, as Iran continues its accelerated race toward a nuclear bomb, continuing to lie and deceive."

Peres expressed his gratitude to the United States for its ongoing support of Israel's efforts to seek peace, and hailed the American military, "whose mission is not to conquer and occupy, who has a mission of values, not an appetite for power."

In an apparent referral to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Peres said, "Your men and women lost their lives for the highest and most noble values; you didn't keep anything for yourself."

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta congratulated Peres on the Medal of Freedom he was awarded by U.S. President Barack Obama. "It's a fitting recognition of your life's work. Your life's work has been to advance peace, human dignity and freedom. These basic values are at the core of the U.S.-Israel relationship. We greatly admire your commitment to these values and we greatly admire your commitment to our relationship. I am pleased to note that the cooperation between the two militaries is stronger than ever."

"The United States' commitment to Israel's security is rock-solid and enduring. As always, we look forward to hearing your views on the many challenges we are facing together. Our goal remains the same - for both of our nations - peace, prosperity, and a dream of leaving our children a better world."

Upon arrival at the Pentagon, Peres had been greeted by Panetta, and the two proceeded to the secretary's dining room, where several top military officials chatted with their Israeli counterparts. In the room was General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was talking to the Israeli military attache to the United States, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni and Peres' military aide Hasson Hasson.

Also in attendance were Dr. James Miller, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs; Jeremy Bash, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Dr. Matthew Spence, deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, Eric Lynn, special advisor for the Middle East, and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.