Netanyahu complains to UN that Iran building facilities to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hold a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, on Aug 28, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres hold a press conference at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, on Aug 28, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday (Aug 28) that Iran is building sites to produce precision-guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon, with the aim of using them against Israel.

At the start of a meeting in Jerusalem with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Mr Netanyahu accused Iran of turning Syria into a "base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel".

"It is also building sites to produce precision-guided missiles towards that end, in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept," Mr Netanyahu said.

Iran, Israel's arch-enemy, has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's staunchest backer and has provided militia fighters to help him in Syria's civil war.

There was no immediate comment from Iran.

Israel has pointed to Teheran's steadily increasing influence in the region during the six-year-old Syrian conflict, whether via its own Revolutionary Guard forces or Shi'ite Muslim proxies, especially Hizbollah.

On Wednesday, Mr Netanyahu, in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Israel was prepared to act unilaterally to prevent an expanded Iranian military presence in Syria.

Russia, also an Assad ally, is seen as holding the balance of power in achieving a deal on Syria's future. Israel fears an eventual Assad victory could leave Iran with a permanent garrison in Syria, extending a threat posed from neighbouring Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Mr Netanyahu accused Iran of building the production sites two weeks after an Israeli television report showed satellite images it said were of a facility Teheran was constructing in north-west Syria to manufacture long-range rockets.

The Channel 2 News report said the images were of a site near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas and were taken by an Israeli satellite.

In parallel to lobbying Moscow, Israel has been trying to persuade Washington that Iran and its guerrilla partners, not Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), pose the greater common threat in the region.