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Israel PM warns over Iran influence in Russia meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks on Thursday with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, with the Israeli leader stressing he hoped to limit his arch-foe Iran’s influence in Syria.

The talks came two days after Donald Trump’s election as US president, though the meeting had long been planned.

Israel and Russia have held a series of talks in recent months to coordinate their actions in Syria, where Moscow has been conducting an air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran is a key ally of Assad as well as Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, also Israel’s enemy.

“We are determined to do two things: first, prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons, and second, to prevent Iran… from establishing itself militarily in Syria, on the ground, in the air or at sea,” Netanyahu said as he met Medvedev.

“We are also determined to prevent it from bringing about the establishment of Shiite militias, which it is organising, and of course, the arming of Hezbollah with dangerous weapons aimed at us.”

Netanyahu called Israel and Russia “partners in the war on radical Islamic terror” and noted that the two countries along with the United States and others “share the goal of eliminating” the Islamic State jihadist group.

Israel opposes Assad but has sought to avoid being dragged into the Syrian war.

It has however carried out strikes there to stop arms deliveries to Hezbollah, which fights alongside Assad’s forces.

Netanyahu admitted publicly for the first time in April that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys in Syria which were transporting weapons to Hezbollah.

Last year, Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to set up a “hotline” to avoid accidental clashes.

Medvedev is to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Jericho on Friday before departing.