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Trump warns of Iranian nuclear threat on visit to Israel

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US President Donald Trump has begun a visit to Israel by warning of the threat posed by Iran if it acquires nuclear weapons.

“Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters in Jerusalem, speaking beside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

He flew in from Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, where he gave a speech to Arab and Muslim leaders at a summit.

Mr Trump will hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

He has called an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “the ultimate deal” but has been vague about what form it should take, saying he prefers to leave it to both sides to decide between them in direct talks.

The two-day visit to Israel forms part of Mr Trump’s first foreign trip as US president.

What else did he say in Jerusalem?

Iran must also “cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias”, Mr Trump said at President Rivlin’s residence.

The American president stressed the bond between his country and Israel, saying: “We are not only long-time friends – we are great allies and partners. We stand together always.”

On the peace process, he said: “Young Israeli and Palestinian children deserve to grow up in safety and to follow their dreams free from the violence that has destroyed so many lives.”

After leaving President Rivlin’s residence, he visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was buried and resurrected.

What is Mr Trump’s position on Israel’s settlements?

The US president has been widely seen as considerably more supportive of Israel than his predecessor, Barack Obama. He has taken a softer position on the contentious issue of Israeli settlements, suggesting that their expansion rather than their presence might hamper the search for peace.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, land Palestinians claim for a future state.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

An embassy in Jerusalem?

The president has also sent mixed signals on the issue of Jerusalem, pledging to move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, angering Palestinians and delighting Israelis.

However he has since stalled, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently telling NBC News that Mr Trump was weighing it up.

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Israel regards the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim the east as their capital. The international community does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and countries maintain their embassies in Tel Aviv.

The ultimate deal – By Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East editor, Jerusalem

President Trump believes he is the world’s greatest dealmaker, and making peace between Israelis and Palestinians after a century of conflict would be the world’s biggest deal.

During the US election, candidate Trump expressed views that seemed to fit neatly with those of the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu – favouring expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied territory and a tough line towards Palestinian aspirations for independence.

But in office, President Trump has been more nuanced – so there has been some nervous speculation on the Israeli right that he might demand concessions from their side.

More than two decades of failed peace talks show how difficult it is to get a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

Most people, on both sides of the argument, are deeply sceptical about the chances of any progress, no matter what President Trump says or does while he is here.

What’s on Trump’s agenda?

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He will hold separate meetings with Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem the following day.

Mr Trump’s trip also comes days after it was reported that the president had leaked to Russia’s foreign minister classified intelligence information said to have come from an Israeli source. The incident raised questions about the confidentiality of secret intelligence passed to the US by its closest Middle Eastern ally.

Just before Mr Trump arrived, Israel announced economic and development concessions for Palestinians, including easing some restrictions on movement and approving industrial construction projects.

Mr Trump is expected to visit the Western Wall, located in the Old City of East Jerusalem, unaccompanied by Israeli officials – the first sitting US president to do so.

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What about the rest of the trip?

At a summit in Riyadh on Sunday, Mr Trump stated again that he believed peace between Israelis and Palestinians was possible.

He also called on Arab and Muslim leaders to take the lead in combating Islamist militants, urging them to “drive them out of this earth“.

Mr Trump’s eight-day trip will also take in Brussels, the Vatican, and Sicily.

The president’s visit has been overshadowed by his political difficulties at home, namely the fallout over his sacking of FBI chief James Comey.

  • Monday, 22 May: Jerusalem
  • Tuesday, 23 May: Bethlehem and Jerusalem
  • Wednesday 24 May: Rome and Brussels. Mr Trump will meet Pope Francis, then Belgian officials
  • Thursday, 25 May: A Nato meeting in Brussels
  • Friday, 26 May: Sicily, for a summit of G7 members

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