Jerusalem: Hours before flying to Washington to try to scuttle an emerging US nuclear deal with Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a high-profile visit Saturday to Judaism`s holiest prayer site.
Wearing a black skullcap, he rested his hands on Jerusalem`s Western Wall while praying briefly, before turning to face a bank of microphones.
Netanyahu expressed his respect for US President Barack Obama, but stood firm on his bid to persuade Congress to fight Obama`s Iran plans.
"I believe in the strength of the relations between Israel and the United States," he said. "That strength will prevail over differences of opinion, those in the past and those yet to come."
Netanyahu has infuriated the White House and Democrat lawmakers by accepting an invitation by Republicans to speak on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
"As prime minister of Israel it is my duty to care for the security of Israel," he said in remarks broadcast by Channel One TV.
"That is why we strongly oppose the agreement emerging between Iran and the world powers which could endanger our very existence."
US Secretary of State John Kerry will leave at the weekend for Switzerland for another meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The pace and intensity of the talks have increased as global powers gathered under the P5+1 group have sought a deal with Iran to stop it acquiring a nuclear weapon -- something Tehran denies trying to do.
A March 31 deadline for a political framework for the deal is looming, with negotiators saying they will aim to pin down the final technical details by June 30.
Israel believes the sides are likely to reach an agreement that eases international sanctions on the Islamic republic without applying sufficiently stringent safeguards to stop it developing nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu`s US trip also comes just two weeks before Israel`s March 17 general election in which he is seeking a third consecutive term in office.
The Western Wall in the Old City of east Jerusalem is the last remnant of the supporting wall of the biblical Jewish temple, built by King Herod and destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.