Mon, 20 Jan 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading to Portugal to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and call for increased pressure on Iran.

'We're seeing the Iranian empire totter,' Netanyahu said on December 4 before departing for Lisbon, citing anti-government demonstrations in Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq.

U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed 'tremendous' sanctions on Iran, he said. 'It's important to increase this pressure against Iranian aggression.'

Netanyahu and Pompeo, who will be on his way home from a NATO summit in London, are to meet in the Portuguese capital late in the day, according to the U.S. State Department.

Israel, which has the Middle East's sole but undeclared nuclear arsenal, has accused Tehran of seeking to obtain nuclear weapons and strongly opposed a 2015 deal that gave Iran access to world trade in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump, a strong Netanyahu ally, in May 2018 withdrew the United States from the agreement, and has since reimposed crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy. Meanwhile, Tehran has gradually reduced some of its commitments under the accord.

Amid biting U.S. sanctions, more than 100 Iranian towns and cities were hit by days of protests over fuel-price hikes last month.

At least 208 people were killed in the government's crackdown against the protesters, according to rights group Amnesty International.

Lebanon and Iraq, both countries where Iran has significant influence, have also seen major demonstrations against the local governments and political leaders.

Netanyahu on December 4 reiterated his criticism of European countries that have joined a bartering system to allow firms to conduct business with Iran without violating U.S. sanctions, saying that 'they should be ashamed of themselves.'

'While people are risking their lives and dying on the streets of Tehran, they are giving sustenance and support to this tyrannical regime,' the prime minister said.

The Lisbon meeting will be the first between Pompeo and Netanyahu since the secretary of state announced last month that Washington no longer considers Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territorie inconsistent with international law.

The move was decried by the Palestinian Authority, while Netanyahu said it 'rights a historical wrong.'

With reporting by AFP, AP, and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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