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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Netanyahu says Israel will act against Iran if needed

The prime minister was speaking at the Munich Security Conference

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the 54th Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018. Ronald Wittek / EPA
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the 54th Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018. Ronald Wittek / EPA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel will act against Iran — not just its allies in the Middle East — if needed.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, he reiterated that Tehran was the world's greatest threat.

"Israel will not allow the regime to put a noose of terror around our neck," he told the conference, holding a piece of what he said was an Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace earlier this month.

"We will act if necessary not just against Iran's proxies but against Iran itself."

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He said the nuclear deal with world powers had emboldened Tehran to become increasingly aggressive in the region, Associated Press reported.

Still holding the Iranian drone fragment, he addressed the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was also present at the conference.

"Mr Zarif do you recognise this? You should, it's yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran — do not test Israel's resolve!"

His comments came a day after US National Security Adviser HR McMaster told the conference that the time had come to confront Iran's expanding influence. He said Tehran was exporting what he called its "Hezbollah model" of building and arming militias loyal to Iran to other Arab countries.

Israel says it shot down an Iranian drone on February 10 after it entered the country from Syria. Following the alleged incursion Israel responded with a raid on what it said was the Iranian control systems for the craft in Syria.

During the strikes, one of Israel's F-16 fighter jets was shot down, believed to be the first loss of an Israeli plane in combat since 1982.

The episode marked the first time Israel had publicly acknowledged hitting Iranian targets in Syria since the start of the war there in 2011.

"No doubt Mr Zarif will brazenly deny Iran's involvement in Syria," My Netanyahu said on Sunday.

"He lies with eloquence."

The Israeli military has claimed the drone was a copy of a US model captured by Iran in 2011, based on an analysis of the drone's debris.

In his own speech to the conference later in the day, Mr Zarif slammed Mr Netanyahu's comments.

"You were the audience for a cartoonish circus just this morning which does not even deserve the dignity of a response," he said.