Netanyahu accuses Iran over Syria aims

Nicosia (AFP) –


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday accused Iran of wanting to deploy "very dangerous weapons" in Syria with the ultimate aim of destroying his own country.

Israel has repeatedly accused its arch enemy Iran of increasing its presence in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the seven-year-old civil war.

Iran "is seeking to plant very dangerous weapons in Syria for the specific purpose of our destruction," Netanyahu said at the end of a three-way meeting with the leaders of Cyprus and Greece in the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

Netanyahu said Iran wants to "establish Iranian military bases in the Mediterranean", describing such a situation as "a palpable threat to us all".

Iran has accused Israel of being behind deadly missile strikes in April against what it called Iranian "advisers" stationed in Syria.

Israel neither confirmed nor denied responsibility, but has repeatedly said it cannot accept Iran establishing itself militarily in Syria.

Assad's regime has also charged Netanyahu's government with carrying out strikes in the country.

Speaking alongside Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Netanyahu did not discuss the Iranian nuclear deal of which he is a fierce opponent.

President Donald Trump is due later on Tuesday to announce whether the United States will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord, which is backed by European countries.

Referring to the 2015 agreement, Tsipras warned against abandoning the deal which sought to stop Tehran developing nuclear weapons.

"Cancelling the agreement with Iran might lead to further destabilisation," he said during the leaders' press conference.