Netanyahu on European tour to convince leaders to back out of Iran deal 

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has told Benjamin Netanyahu that she shared his concern over Iran but continued to support the beleaguered nuclear deal.

The Israeli prime minister began a three-day tour of Europe on Monday with the aim of persuading the leaders of Germany, France and the UK to leave the landmark accord and support his push for tougher measure against Tehran.

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He warned of what he said would be dramatic consequences of failing to curb an emboldened Iran, which has been building up its presence in neighbouring Syria and elsewhere in the region.

“Iran is trying to conquer the Middle East — it is doing so in Syria, in Yemen and other places,” he said. “In Syria, Iran is trying to put its air force, navy and ground forces with the explicit goal of attacking us so we cannot accept it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents material on Iranian nuclear weapons development during a press conference in Tel Aviv, Monday, April 30 2018.Credit:

“Iran, which is Shia, wants to conduct a military campaign in Syria which is largely Sunni . . . this will inflame another religious war and the consequences would be many, many more refugees and you know exactly where they will come,” he said.

Israel fears that as the Syrian civil war winds down, Iran, whose forces and Shia proxies have backed President Bashar Assad, will turn its focus to Israel.

Last month, Israel clashed openly with Iranian forces in Syria, exchanging rockets over the occupied Golan Heights.

Mrs Merkel said that Germany is worried by Iran’s behaviour and that its regional activities and ballistic missile program must be dealt with.

Iranian protesters burn the US flag during a gathering after their Friday prayer in Tehran, Iran a decision taken by President Donald Trump to leave the nuclear dealCredit:

However, she told her counterpart said that Berlin intended to remain in the deal "although we have disagreements about the effectiveness of the agreement."

Mr Netanyahu is due to meet today with Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, today and on Wednesday will speak with Theresa May, both of whom have indicated they plan to honour the accord.

The diplomatic flurry follows last month’s decision by US President Donald Trump to pull US out of the 2015 deal, which traded sanction relief on Iran for curbs on its nuclear programme.

In the face of the US retreat, all three European leaders strongly defend the agreement as the best way to head off a regional arms race and have vowed with Russia and China, the two other signatory countries, to keep it alive.

Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw triggered the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, which has left European companies doing business in the Islamic Republic to calculate the economic costs of sticking to the deal.

Mr Netanyahu, which sees Iran’s meddling in the region as a existential threat to its existence, said he had shared with the accord’s signatories a tranche of files it captured during a secret raid in Iran earlier this year.

Mr Netanyahu presented its contents in a theatrical press conference in April, saying it was evidence that Iran had lied about its previous nuclear research. However, he did not say that Tehran was currently violating the terms of the deal.

The UK Foreign Office released a statement at the time indicating that his speech had not changed Britain’s position and that it was “not naive” about Iran’s nuclear intentions.

The Europeans have proposed a possible supplementary deal with Tehran to keep the US and Israel happy, which would cover its ballistic missile programme as well as its interventions in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

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