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Netanyahu will again take aim at Iran in United Nations speech

Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, speaks during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
The Israeli premier has developed a reputation for headline-grabbing addresses at the annual get-together

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reprise one of his favorite topics from past speeches to the United Nations General Assembly when he addresses the annual gathering again on Tuesday: Iran. 

The Israeli leader -- who in 2012 famously brandished a diagram showing how close the Islamic Republic was getting to nuclear weapons capability -- is set to warn at the meeting of world leaders that Israel will not tolerate Iran entrenching militarily in southern Syria. 

Netanyahu told reporters at his New York hotel on Friday evening that “the central message [of the UNGA speech] will be that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian military presence on our northern borders, which endangers not just us, but also our Arab neighbors,” the Times of Israel reported. 

In recent weeks Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz have consistently raised the specter of Iran's military designs on the south of war-torn Syria, including in a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.  

Netanyahu is also expected to focus on Iran when he meets with United States President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the meeting. 

"While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran's destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus," Trump's national security adviser HR McMaster said in a press briefing on Friday, referring also to Trump's mooted meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron. 

The Israeli premier has developed a reputation for headline-grabbing addresses at the annual get-together at the UN headquarters. In addition to the 2012 'bomb diagram', in 2015 he held a dramatic 44 second pause after noting Iranian leaders' threats to destroy Israel. 

Israel fears that Iran will use the power vacuum in war-torn Syria and strong Russian influence to establish military bases in Syria with the aim of opening up a second front against Israel in the event of a war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia.

Netanyahu has said Israel will "do something" about the establishment of military infrastructure. 

On Friday Haaretz newspaper reported that Russia had rejected an Israeli demand that a ceasefire brokered in July covering southwestern Syria include a 60-80 kilometer buffer zone where Iranian military activity would be prohibited. An Israeli official reportedly denied the report. 

Read more: Defense Minister Liberman: We won't allow Iran to 'create new reality' in Syria

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