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Netanyahu Heads To Europe To Discuss 'Iran And Iran'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading to Germany, France, and Britain in a bid to rally support for amending the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and for pushing Iranian forces out of neighboring Syria.

Netanyahu is set to meet with the German, French, and British leaders during his four-day tour, beginning with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on June 4.

"I will meet there with three leaders and will discuss two subjects: Iran and Iran," Netanyahu said ahead of his trip, adding he wanted pressure on Iran's nuclear program to be "intensified."

Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting on June 3 that he will also “insist on a basic principle: Israel retains and will continue to retain freedom of action against the establishment of an Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria."

Also on June 4, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors kicks off a four-day meeting in Vienna amid uncertainty over the fate of the Iran nuclear deal following the United States’ decision to withdraw from it.

President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States would abandon the agreement and reimpose sanctions lifted as part of it, claiming that Tehran had violated the “spirit” of the accord by financing militant violence in the Middle East and by continuing to test ballistic missiles.

Israel supported Trump’s move, arguing that the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear agreement 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.

It also hopes that the U.S. decision can lead all sides into addressing what it says are the deal's shortcomings, including the so-called sunset clauses that set expiration dates for some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

The other signatories to the accord -- Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany -- said they remain committed to the deal. Iran for now also is honoring the agreement.

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

Israel fears that as the conflict winds down, Tehran will turn its focus to Israel, its archrival.

With reporting by AP and dpa