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Defense Secretary Hagel to visit Israel this month: official

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech on fiscal defense spending at Ft. McNair in Washington April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Came
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gives a speech on fiscal defense spending at Ft. McNair in Washington April 3, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Came

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will pay a first visit to Israel since taking office later this month to bolster the allies' cooperation in the Middle East, an Israeli official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Hagel and his counterpart, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon who is also newly appointed, discussed the visit by phone last month, the Israeli Defence Ministry said. The official said Hagel would visit between April 21-23.

Hagel's visit will follow a trip by Secretary of State John Kerry who is currently visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to try to restart long-stalled peace talks and after a visit last month by President Barack Obama.

Iran's perceived nuclear threat, an issue that is regularly on the agenda between the two allies, is certain to feature highly in discussions.

The United States heavily funds Israeli missile defence systems that protect against short-range rockets and missiles that militants in the Gaza Strip launch at Israel, as well as the threat of long-range missiles.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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