Pompeo says Iran trying to ‘foment terror’ during pandemic

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, US. (File/Reuters)

JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday accused Iran of using its resources to “foment terror” even as its people face the deadliest coronavirus outbreak.

“Even during this pandemic the Iranians are using the ayatollah regime’s resources to foment terror across the world, even when the people of Iran are struggling so mightily,” Pompeo said in Jerusalem ahead of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It tells you a lot about the soul of those people who lead that country,” he added.

Pompeo visited Israel on a one-day trip that included meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz.

Pompeo told the Israel Hayom newspaper that they discussed annexation “but also many other issues related to it — how to deal with all the factors involved, and how to make sure the move is done properly to bring about an outcome in accordance with the vision of peace.”

The visit came a day before Israel’s new government was to be sworn in to discuss plans to annex much of the occupied and violence-torn West Bank.

Pompeo’s trip coincided with an upsurge in violence in the West Bank.

Israeli troops shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian near the flashpoint city of Hebron Wednesday, a day after a Palestinian stone-thrower killed an Israeli soldier during an arrest operation near Jenin, the army’s first fatality of the year.

Netanyahu and Gantz are set to launch their government Thursday, having faced off in three inconclusive elections in less than a year before agreeing to a three-year power-sharing administration.

Netanyahu, the right-winger in office since 2009, will serve as premier for 18 months with Gantz as his alternate, before the two are set to swap posts midway through the deal.

Their coalition agreement says the government can from July 1 begin considering implementing US President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan.

The Palestinians have rejected Trump’s proposals and cut ties with his administration in 2017 over its pro-Israel stance.

Their chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Pompeo’s team had not reached out ahead of the visit.

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