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U.S. says disappointed at no apology from Israeli defense chief

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Friday said it was disappointed at the lack of an apology from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon for his criticism of U.S. policies in a speech on Monday.

"We are disappointed with the lack of an apology from Defense Minister Yaalon's comments," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a daily briefing. "His comments don't reflect the true nature of our relationship with Israel," she added.

In a lecture at Tel Aviv University, Yaalon said Israel could not rely on its main ally to take the lead in confronting Iran over its nuclear program. He also pointed at the Ukraine crisis as an example of Washington "showing weakness.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry later called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protest Yaalon's comments, which come at a time that the United States is trying to broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

While Yaalon has issued a statement voicing regret at any offence he may have caused, he has not apologized nor retracted his accusations.

It is the second time that Yaalon's comments have irked Washington. In January he described Kerry's quest for Middle East peace as messianic and obsessive.

Asked whether the United States had sought an apology from Yaalon, Psaki said both Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had "clearly expressed their displeasure with the comments and an apology would be a natural next step in response to that."

She said there were concerns with the "pattern" of publicly criticizing U.S. policies. Still, Psaki said the spat would not undermine efforts to forge a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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