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Shimon Peres Dismisses Talk of Israel Attacking Iran

Israel's president dismissed talk of attacking Iranian nuclear facilities in talks with the U.S. Mideast envoy Thursday, saying there is no military solution to the nuclear threat from Tehran.

Shimon Peres told President Barack Obama's representative George Mitchell that progress with Iran depended on international cooperation. Peres said the international community must explore whether dialogue is a real opportunity or Iran is just stalling.

"Talk of a possible Israeli attack on Iran is not true," Peres said, according to a statement from his office. "The solution to Iran is not military."

Israel sees a nuclear Iran as the most serious threat to its existence. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction and Iran has tested long-range missiles that could strike Israel.

While not directly threatening to take out Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel has kept the military option open.

Peres, a Nobel peace laureate and former leader of the dovish Labor Party, has a largely ceremonial role in Israeli public life.

Strategic decisions are the preserve of new hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Both are to meet Mitchell later Thursday.

It will be the U.S. envoy's first meeting with the new Israeli leadership since it took office last month, seemingly on a collision course with the Obama administration over the basic outlines for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In talks with Peres, Mitchell reiterated Washington's solid support for creation of an independent Palestinian state.

"We are committed to two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and we shall act toward that end," Peres' office quoted Mitchell as saying.

Netanyahu has not endorsed Palestinian statehood and has yet to unveil his government's policy on peace efforts and Lieberman has said pledges made by the previous Israeli administration to work for Palestinian independence are no longer relevant.

Mitchell met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at his Tel Aviv home for a little over an hour on Wednesday evening after his arrival. A statement from Barak's office said he told Mitchell it was possible and necessary for Israel and the U.S. to coordinate and reach an understanding on all the current issues.

Promising a vigorous push for Israel-Palestinian peace, Mitchell made his first Mideast foray in January, just a week after Obama took office. He made a second visit with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton a month later.

On Friday, he is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank. Their government, headed by Abbas' Fatah movement, is in control only of the West Bank while their rivals in the militant Hamas group seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Efforts to reconcile those factions have so far failed, adding another serious obstacle to peace efforts.