Netanyahu takes off on `historic` US mission

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to Washington Sunday on what he said was a "historic" mission to try and stop a nuclear deal with Iran, an AFP correspondent said.

Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to Washington Sunday on what he said was a "historic" mission to try and stop a nuclear deal with Iran, an AFP correspondent said.

The controversial 48-hour visit will see the Israeli leader addressing a joint session of the US Congress in a bid to garner last-minute support to halt an emerging world deal with Iran over its nuclear programme, in a move which has infuriated the White House.

But Netanyahu, who will also address the annual policy conference of the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, has refused to back down.

"I`m going to Washington on a fateful, even historic, mission," he told reporters on the tarmac at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv shortly before his plane took off.

"I feel deep and sincere concern for the security of Israel`s citizens and for the fate of the state and of all our people," he said.

"I will do everything in my power to ensure our future."

Netanyahu will address AIPAC on Monday before heading to Capitol Hill on Tuesday after which he will fly home.

Israel believes Iran and world powers are likely to reach a deal that eases international sanctions on Tehran without applying sufficiently stringent safeguards to stop it developing nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu`s trip comes just four weeks before a March 31 deadline for a political framework, with negotiators intending to pin down the final technical details by June 30.

It also comes just two weeks before a March 17 general election in Israel where Netanyahu is hoping to be re-elected for a third consecutive term in office.  

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