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Netanyahu, Pompeo vow to counter Iranian 'aggression'

The two met during Pompeo's first leg of a Middle East tour [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2019

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Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed to counter Iranian "aggression" in the region.

Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed to counter Iranian "aggression" as the two met in Jerusalem on Wednesday, just weeks ahead of Israel's elections.

Netanyahu said US President Donald Trump's pressure on Iran was already having an effect, referring to his withdrawal from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and the reimposition of sanctions.

"We need to increase it, we need to expand it, and together the United States and Israel are working in close coordination to roll back Iranian aggression in the region and around the world," the premier told journalists after Pompeo arrived.

Pompeo spoke of a Middle East conference in Warsaw last month that included Arab nations as well as Israel, saying the discussions involved efforts "to stop Iran's regional rampage" among other issues.

The US secretary of state also noted Iranian calls for Israel's destruction.

"With such threats a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparallelled commitment to Israel's security and firmly support your right to defend yourself," he said.

Netanyahu reiterated his pledge to keep Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria, where the Islamic republic backs President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Israel has carried out hundreds of airstrikes there against what it says are Iranian and Hizballah targets.

"There is no limitation to our freedom of action, and we appreciate very much the fact that the United States backs up our actions as we do them," Netanyahu said.

Pompeo's two-day visit to Jerusalem also includes a symbolic stop at the new US embassy, which was transferred from Tel Aviv on Trump's orders last year.

Netanyahu will travel to Washington in the last week of March for the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an event sponsored by the influential lobbying group that draws thousands each year.

While a meeting has not been officially confirmed, the Israeli premier hopes to use the opportunity of his Washington visit to meet with Trump. 

The 9 April vote in Israel will also start the countdown for the presentation, expected before the summer, of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan that a small White House team - widely recognised as strongly pro-Israeli - has been quietly preparing under the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo kicked off his regional tour of the Middle East in Kuwait earlier on Wednesday, seeking to bolster a united front against Iran.

America's chief diplomat met with Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on the first stop of the trip.

During Friday's Beirut leg of his trip, Pompeo will focus on the Hizballah movement, which the US considers a pro-Iranian "terrorist" group even though it is represented in the coalition government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, himself a US ally.

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