Middle East

Netanyahu says he will push Trump on Iran sanctions

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he plans to push US President Donald Trump to renew sanctions against Iran during a visit to Washington next month, complaining that Iran had once more tested a ballistic missile.

Netanyahu has been harshly critical of the deal that six world powers including the United States under president Barack Obama struck with Iran to curb its nuclear program in return for an end to multilateral sanctions. Iran is Israel's avowed enemy and Israel argues that the agreement fails to prevent Iranian weapons posing a threat to its very existence.

During the US election campaign, Trump called the pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated", though he has also said it would be hard to overturn an agreement enshrined in a UN resolution.

In a statement on his personal Twitter account, around the same time the White House announced his February 15 visit, Netanyahu said: "Iran again launched a ballistic missile. This is a flagrant violation of a Security Council Resolution."

A US official said on Monday that Iran had test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday, which exploded after 630 miles.

"In my upcoming meeting with President Trump, I intend to bring up the renewal of sanctions against Iran," Netanyahu said. "Iran's aggression cannot be left without a response."

The Obama administration said Iran's ballistic missile tests had not violated the nuclear agreement, but Trump has said he will stop Tehran's missile program.

Under the UN resolution approving the nuclear deal, Iran is "called upon" to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years.

Critics of the deal have said the language is ambiguous and does not make compliance obligatory, while Tehran says the missiles it has tested are not specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads.

This month, Iranian lawmakers approved plans to increase military spending, including expanding the long-range missile program.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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