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Netanyahu To Putin: Iran Trying To Turn Lebanon Into 'Missile Factory'

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he speaks the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 25, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he is heading for talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin over what he says are Iran's efforts to militarize Lebanon.

Netanyahu said upon his departure on Monday that Iran is trying to turn Lebanon into "one giant missile site, a site for precision missiles against the State of Israel, which we will not tolerate."

Israel has repeatedly warned in recent years of intensified Iranian efforts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, including new and sophisticated missiles. However, it is not clear if what Netanyahu called “missile factory” means Iran is now manufacturing precision and advances missiles in Lebanon.

Netanyahu also said that he will discuss with Putin Iran’s “unending efforts to militarily entrench itself in Syria, something that we are adamantly opposed to and act against”.

The two leaders have met often to coordinate activities in Syria, where Russia has placed significant forces. Israel has been warning of Iran's increasing efforts to establish a military presence in Syria and Lebanon, along Israel's border.

Israel's chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis posted a rare op-ed on Sunday in several Arabic-language websites, including a Lebanese opposition website, warning of Iran's entrenchment in Lebanon. He said Israel is "prepared for all the scenarios."

“Lebanon has become - both by its own actions and omissions and by a blind eye from many members of the international community - one large missile factory,” Manelis wrote.

"It's no longer a transfer of arms, funds or consultation. Iran has de-facto opened a new branch, the 'Lebanon branch.' Iran is here," he said.

Netanyahu said that his periodic meetings with Putin are to ensure coordination between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Russian forces in Syria. “This has succeeded until now, and it is important that it will continue to succeed”, he added.

Reporting by AP, Jerusalem Post