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Israeli Leader Seeks To Persuade European Powers That Iran Should Exit Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will seek support from European powers for his position that Iran should be denied any military presence in Syria.

"We believe that there is no place for any Iranian military presence, anywhere in Syria," Netanyahu told his parliamentary faction in remarks broadcast on May 28.

"These things, of course, reflect not only our position. I can safely say that they also reflect the views of others in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East," he said.

Netanyahu said he will press German and French leaders on a visit to Europe next week on the issue of Iran's military presence in Syria and the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the June 4-6 trip. Netanyahu said he may also meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

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

In recent months as Assad's forces have made gains reasserting control over Aleppo, Damascus, and other Syrian population centers, Israel has warned against the possibility of Iran becoming militarily entrenched in the neighboring country.

Israel was one of the few countries that supported U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers earlier this month.

The Jewish state has argued that the lifting of UN sanctions under the nuclear deal 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.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters