POSTED: 03:00 a.m. HST, Jan 20, 2013
Israel leader says Iran key issue, not settlements
AP Photo DV101
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JERUSALEM (AP) — Two days before Israeli elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shrugging off international criticism of Israeli settlement construction, calling Iran's suspect nuclear program the real threat to regional security.
Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said he told a group of visiting U.S. senators that "the problem is not building ... The problem in the Middle East is Iran's attempt to build nuclear weapons ... This was, and remains, the main mission facing not only myself and Israel, but the entire world."
Israel, the U.S. and much of the international community think Iran aims to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Netanyahu has drawn fierce criticism internationally for building housing for Jewish settlers on lands claimed by the Palestinians.
Polls show Netanyahu positioned to lead Israel's next government.