07242014Thu

Obama visit to focus on Iran, Syria, peace: Israel PM

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Iran's nuclear ambitions, Syria and the peace process with the Palestinians will top US President Barack Obama's agenda on his upcoming visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Last week, the White House said Obama would make his first visit to Israel as president on a trip likely to take place next month. It would also include stops in the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

"The president and I discussed this visit and agreed we would talk about three central issues," Netanyahu said ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, calling it "a very important visit" at a time of great instability in the region.

He said the focus would be on: "Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, the instability in Syria and the ramifications for the security of the region and of course Israel and the US, and the attempts to advance the peace process between us and the Palestinians."

The White House has kept expectations deliberately low about the possible outcome of the visit, with spokesman Jay Carney saying Obama had no plans to use the trip to advance new proposals to break the talks deadlock which has persisted for more than two years.

Tensions between Israel and war-torn Syria soared two weeks ago following an air strike on a military facility near Damascus, which was implicitly claimed by the Jewish state.

Israel has repeatedly warned it would not allow game-changing weapons to be transferred from Syria to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Tehran's nuclear programme, which Israel and much of the West believes to be a weapons drive, will also be high on the agenda, with Netanyahu stressing that preventing a nuclear Iran would be the top priority for the new government he is piecing together after last month's general election.

All three issues "are weighty issues which require the most serious attention from Israel. I believe they also require the broadest possible national unity," Netanyahu told ministers in his outgoing cabinet.

"This is what is behind our efforts to form a coalition government now."

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