Wed, 26 Jun 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have discussed ways to 'roll back Iranian aggression' in the region and around the world, the Israeli leader said after the two met in Jerusalem.

'There is no limitation to our freedom of action, and we appreciate very much the fact that the United States backs up our actions,' Netanyahu said on March 20, speaking alongside Pompeo.

Accusing Iranian leaders of seeking the 'annihilation and destruction' of Israel, the top U.S. diplomat pledged continued U.S. support.

'With such threats a daily reality of Israeli life, we maintain our unparalleled commitment to Israel's security and firmly support your right to defend yourself,' Pompeo said.

Netanyahu reiterated his pledge to keep Iran from entrenching itself militarily in neighboring Syria, where Iran, along with Russia, has given Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crucial backing throughout his country's eight-year civil war.

Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in the war-torn country against what it describes as Iranian targets and those of allied militias, including the Lebanon-based Shi'ite militant group Hizballah.

Netanyahu also welcomed Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers last year, as well as U.S. sanctions that were reimposed on Iran's economy.

'This pressure is working,' he said. 'We need to increase it.'

In a video statement posted on YouTube to mark the Norouz new year holiday on March 21, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country will overcome 'inhumane and illegal' U.S. sanctions.

'We rely solely on our own people to overcome any challenges, but we also welcome constructive engagement, including with the expanding array of nations who are equally sick and tired of the bullying of the U.S.,' Zarif said.

Pompeo's Jerusalem visit comes less than a month ahead of Israel's April 9 general elections in which Netanyahu is facing a stiff challenge from a centrist alliance.

The Israeli prime minister is set to visit Washington next week and meet with President Donald Trump.

Pompeo arrived in Jerusalem after a stop in Kuwait, where he renewed calls for a resolution to a dispute between Qatar and four other Arab states. From Israel, he is to travel to Lebanon.

With reporting by AFP and AP RFE/RL

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