Rebuffing Netanyahu, Iran blames Mideast woes on Israel
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Rebuffing Netanyahu, Iran blames Mideast woes on Israel

Foreign Minister Zarif says 'occupation and apartheid system that perpetuates it will not last long'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 6, 2018. (AFP  / Nicholas Kamm)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington, DC, on March 6, 2018. (AFP / Nicholas Kamm)

Iran’s foreign minister on Tuesday responded to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions, threatening Israel’s existence once again and saying its “illegal occupation” is the source of most problems in the Middle East.

“Despite Netanyahu’s claims, the fact is that illegal occupation lies at the heart of most of the calamities in our region,” Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, hours after Netanyahu spoke at the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual policy conference.

“Historically, occupying another’s land has never been sustainable. This occupation, too — and the apartheid system that perpetuates it — will not last long,” he added.

In his speech, Netanyahu slammed Iran’s nuclear program, as he has done many times in the past.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gives a speech during the Munich Security Conference on February 18, 2018 in Munich, southern Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Thomas KIENZLE)

Netanyahu vowed to stand with US President Donald Trump’s ultimatum that Congress and European allies modify the 2015 nuclear accord — ending its sunset provisions, incorporating a ban on ballistic missile testing and increasing inspection access to Iran’s military sites — or face the demise of the landmark agreement.

“The president has also made clear that if the fatal flaws of the nuclear deal are not fixed, he will walk away from the deal and restore sanctions,” the prime minister said. “Israel will be right there by his side, and let me tell you, so will other countries in the region.”

Last month, Netanyahu singled out Zarif in his speech at the Munich security conference, as he lifted up a piece of an Iranian drone downed in Israeli airspace.

“Mr. Zarif, do you recognize 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!” proclaimed Netanyahu to the audience, which included Zarif.

The drone, which entered northern Israel from Syria near the Jordan border on February 10, was shot down by an Israeli attack helicopter. In response to the incursion, Israeli jets attacked the mobile command center from which it was operated, the army said.

When Zarif spoke at the Munich conference later that day, he derided Netanyahu’s drone stunt as a “cartoonish circus” and said it “doesn’t deserve the dignity of a response.”

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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