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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2011. (REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the 66th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 23, 2011. (REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS/MIKE SEGAR)

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit Canada in early March Add to ...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to visit Stephen Harper March 2, as Israel faces warnings not to rush into launching military strikes against Iran.

Mr. Harper has been a hawk on Iran, insisting the country is trying to develop nuclear weapons and calling it the single biggest threat to the world’s security.

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But with the United States and other allies warning an Israeli strike would be “premature,” the question now is whether Mr. Harper will join them in asking Israel to cool its jets.

Around the world, warnings to Israel that they should not strike yet were amplified over the weekend. Many experts warn a unilateral Israeli strike could draw in the U.S.

The top U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview with CNN that an Israeli airstrike would be “premature.”

Earlier this month, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it would not be “wise” for Israel to take military action. He argued the solution is diplomatic and political, and will be achieved through sanctions.

Mr. Harper’s office confirmed that Mr. Netanyahu will visit Canada in early March. The visit will come on Mr. Netanyahu’s way to Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on March 5 and attend the conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.

The stop in Ottawa will mark a visit of a close ally for Mr. Harper, who has staunchly defended Israel, watering down resolutions urging peace talks at last year’s G8 summit and opposing efforts to have a Palestinian state recognized by the UN. His foreign affairs minister, John Baird, spent five days in Israel in early February.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government has floated the idea of a pre-emptive military strike to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, And Mr. Harper has argued that if Iran had nuclear weapons, they’d use them.

“In my judgment, these are people who have a particular, you know, fanatically religious worldview, and their statements imply to me no hesitation of using nuclear weapons if they see them achieving their religious or political purpose,” Mr. Harper said in a CBC interview in January.

Canada has been quick to join allies in imposing sanctions, and prohibitions on many transactions by the U.S. And European nations, along with a European Union threat to stop all purchases of Iranian oil, are believed to be taking a toll on Iran’s economy.

Whether that will lead Iran to stop nuclear-weapons development is unclear. Tehran has insisted its nuclear program is civilian and peaceful, but Western allies consider that a smokescreen. The International Atomic Energy Agency has detailed past activities that indicate efforts to develop weapons and warned of a “possible military dimension” to its current nuclear program.

Iran has offered new talks on its nuclear program. But political and military leaders there have also threatened to respond to any strike by closing the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil is shipped, and there are fears they would use terrorist clients to strike Western targets.

Follow on Twitter: @camrclark

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