Netanyahu Says Iran Seeking to Stifle Mideast Democracy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran in talks with top Republican U.S. lawmakers on Monday of seeking to torpedo efforts to bring about democracy in the Middle East, his office said.

"Iran is the greatest danger that we face today," a statement quoted him as telling a 27-member delegation, headed by Representative Kevin McCarthy, the number-three Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It drives extremists and leads to instability in the region," Netanyahu said. "Its aim is to destroy any chance of democratic rule, of peace and of freedom in the Middle East."

Israel, the United States and other governments say Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, an ambition Tehran strongly denies.

The Jewish state also accuses the Iranians of supporting the Palestinian militant Islamic Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Lebanese group Hizbullah, both implacable foes of the Jewish state.

The week-long fact-finding visit, involving meetings with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, is the first of two scheduled by Republican lawmakers this month. A second group of 29 is due from August 21-28.

In addition to Netanyahu, both delegations were to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.

A group of 26 Democratic lawmakers returned home on Sunday after a similar week-long visit.

All the trips were sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the powerful U.S. pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.

Source: Agence France Presse

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