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Major US-Israel military drill postponed: Report

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JERUSALEM (AFP): Israel and the United States have agreed to postpone a major military defence exercise scheduled for spring, Israeli public radio reported Sunday, amid rising regional tension over Iran's nuclear programme.

The exercise, "Austere Challenge 12," would be pushed back to the end of 2012 because of unspecified budgetary concerns, the radio said, citing military sources.

An Israeli defence ministry source speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP the delay had not been finalised.

"No final decision has been made yet, discussions with our American counterparts are ongoing," he said.

But Israel's army radio, citing a defence official, said the drill was being postponed to avoid "unnecessary headlines in such a tense period."

The joint manoeuvre was to have been the biggest yet between the two allies, and was seen as an opportunity to display their joint military strength at a time of growing concern about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Israel, the United States and much of the international community accuse Iran of using its nuclear programme to mask a weapons drive, a charge Tehran denies.


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