Great Britain

Netanyahu, Merkel Agree Iran A Concern For Israel's Security

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran's activities in the Middle East represent a concern for the security of Israel.

'We agree that the question of Iran's regional influence is worrying, especially for Israel's security,' Merkel said at a joint news conference with Netanyahu after their meeting in Berlin on June 4.

Netanyahu is touring Germany, France, and Britain in a bid to rally support for amending the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and for pushing Iranian forces out of neighboring Syria.

Netanyahu is also set to meet with French and British leaders during his four-day tour.

Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on June 3 that he will also "insist on a basic principle: Israel retains and will continue to retain freedom of action against the establishment of an Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria.'

Also on June 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) board of governors kicked off a four-day meeting in Vienna amid uncertainty over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal following the United States' decision to withdraw from it.

At the start of the meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano called on Iran to ensure 'timely and proactive cooperation' with inspections mandated under the 2015 deal.

Amano also said the IAEA had had access to all sites in Iran that it needed to visit and that 'Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments.'

President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States would abandon the agreement and reimpose sanctions lifted as part of it, claiming that Tehran had violated the "spirit" of the accord by financing militant violence in the Middle East and by continuing to test ballistic missiles.

Israel supported Trump's move, arguing that the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear agreement in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear activities allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and though proxy groups such as Lebanon's Hizballah militia.

It also hopes that the U.S. decision can lead all sides into addressing what it says are the deal's shortcomings, including the so-called sunset clauses that set expiration dates for some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

The other signatories to the accord -- Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany -- said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.

Iran's supreme leader warned on June 4 that his country would fiercely respond if attacked by enemies, saying that the country's ballistic-missile program was essential for defensive purposes.

'Tehran will attack 10 times more if attacked by enemies.... The enemies don't want an independent Iran in the region.... We will continue our support to oppressed nations...our enemies have staged economic and psychological warfare against us and new American sanctions are part of it,' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a live speech on state TV.

In Syria, Iranian military advisers and allied militia have been providing critical support for President Bashar al-Assad throughout his seven-year civil war against Sunni rebels.

Israel fears that as the conflict winds down, Tehran will turn its focus to Israel, its archrival.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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