June 4, 2018 / 3:46 PM / 15 days ago

Iran could unleash new refugee wave, Netanyahu tells Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Iran’s activities across the Middle East threaten to drive another wave of refugees to Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands after a news conference in Berlin, Germany, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt?

Netanyahu, on a tour to persuade European countries to follow the U.S. administration of Donald Trump in tearing up a nuclear non-proliferation deal with Iran, said the country was using proceeds from eased sanctions to finance conflict.

Iran wanted to expand and deploy Shi’ite militias it commanded to convert Muslims from the Sunni branch of Islam, he said at a joint news conference with Merkel.

“This will inflame a religious war, and the consequences will be many more refugees and you know exactly where they’ll come,” he added.

In 2015 Germany and other European countries saw an influx of more than a million migrants, fuelling the rise of far-right parties.

Many were refugees from civil war in Syria, where Iran is a crucial military ally of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels who are mainly Sunni.

Merkel said she agreed that Iran’s activities in the Middle East were a concern, particularly for Israel’s security. But she said talks and the nuclear agreement torn up by the United States offered ways of thwarting Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions.

“We support Israel’s right to security and have said this to Iran at all times,” she said. “We have the same goal that Iran must never get a nuclear weapon and the difference between us is how to do that.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Germany, June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Andrew Roche

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