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Pompeo meets Netanyahu in Israel to talk security, Iran

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Pool Photo by Sebastian Scheiner/UPI
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Pool Photo by Sebastian Scheiner/UPI | License Photo

March 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the Middle East this week to meet leaders in Israel, Kuwait and Lebanon, and discuss potential threats posed by Iran.

Pompeo visited Israel Wednesday and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the two will make a joint statement detailing their talks.

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The five-day trip started in Kuwait City, where Pompeo discussed {link:U.S. strategy and energy policy. "https://www.voanews.com/a/pompeo-heads-to-kuwait-israel-lebanon-/4838157.html" target="_blank"}.

One item up for discussion is reunifying the Gulf Cooperation Council that once included Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. The UAE imposed a blockade amid a spat with Qatar two years ago and previous attempts by the Trump administration to resolve tensions have been unsuccessful.

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Pompeo will next visit Lebanon to discuss Iran and Hezbollah and military support. Iran has a strong presence in Lebanon and Hezbollah holds three cabinet positions there. The U.S. government considers Hezbollah a pro-Iranian "terrorist" group, though it's represented by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a U.S. ally.

The United States has threatened to sanction Beirut agencies that support Hezbollah.

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Pompeo dismissed criticisms that his meeting with Netanyahu amounts to intruding into the Israeli election next month. Netanyahu faces a vote April 9 in addition to bribery and corruption charges. Pompeo will not meet with any of Netanyahu's opponents.

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"There's always an election," Pompeo said. "We've got an election a year away. They've got one that's less than a month away. I'm going to Israel because of the important relationship we have."

The Trump administration has come under fire recently for saying Israel "controls" the disputed Golan Heights territory, which is considered by many Syrian land. The White House downplayed the change but Pompeo said it "reflects the facts as we understand them."

Netanyahu will visit Washington, D.C., next week and meet with Jewish lobbyists and possibly President Donald Trump.

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