Pompeo, Netanyahu to increase pressure against Iran

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and vowed to increase pressure against Iran.

Pompeo praised the warm ties between Israel and the White House, publicly stressing Trump administration's support to Netanyahu in the latter's tight re-election campaign.

Speaking in joint remarks after their meeting in Jerusalem, Pompeo praised the "unparalleled" U.S. military support for Israel.

"With the threats of annihilation that Iran is making against Israel, we are committed to Israel's security and its right to self-defense," he said. "With rocket threats from Gaza and threats from the north, we are proud to stand by your side," he added.

Pompeo said the purpose of the visit was to harden the pressure against Israel's arch-enemy, Iran. He hailed February's conference in Warsaw on the Middle East as "a historic conference," saying "Arab leaders and Israel discussed terrorism and how to stop Iran's campaign of destruction in the region."

Netanyahu, on his side, used the opportunity to urge the international community to recognize Israel's sovereignty in the annexed Golan Heights, an original Syrian territory.

Israel seized the land in a war in 1967 and annexed it in the 1980s, but the international community has never recognized the move.

"Time had come for the international community to recognize the Israeli presence in the Golan Heights and the fact that the Golan will always remain part of Israel," Netanyahu told Pompeo.

"Only last week, we exposed Hezbollah's efforts, backed by Iranian funding, to establish a military base in Syria on the border of the Golan Heights," Netanyahu said.

On March 11, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham toured the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights and vowed to lobby the White House to acknowledge the disputed territory as part of Israel.

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House issued a statement saying Trump will host the prime minister at the White House next week.

Netanyahu is seeking to be re-elected for a fifth term in the April 9 elections but he faces a tough fight from Israel's former Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz, and a series of allegations over fraud and bribery.

On Feb. 28, Israel's Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit said he intends to indict Netanyahu on three separate corruption cases, pending a hearing that will be held after the elections.

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