Netanyahu says Iran has 'sensitive information' on rival, Tehran denies hack
By Dan Williams JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged on Wednesday that Iran could blackmail his main election rival, Benny Gantz, after hacking the former armed forces chief's phone, even as Tehran denied doing so. Without providing any evidence or details, Netanyahu said Iran had gleaned 'sensitive information'. His comments, in a brief speech broadcast online from his official residence, brought a new level of vitriol to the election race
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged on Wednesday that Iran could blackmail his main election rival, Benny Gantz, after hacking the former armed forces chief's phone, even as Tehran denied doing so.
Without providing any evidence or details, Netanyahu said Iran had gleaned "sensitive information". His comments, in a brief speech broadcast online from his official residence, brought a new level of vitriol to the election race.
Polls put Netanyahu's right-wing Likud and Gantz's centrist Blue and White party neck-and-neck, with election day three weeks away.
Gantz has confirmed an Israeli TV report last week that the Shin Bet domestic intelligence service had detected that his cellphone had been hacked, though the agency itself has not commented.
But he has not confirmed that the hackers are believed to be Iranian, as reported, and has said the phone contained no data that might compromise national security or his ability to carry out his duties if he were elected prime minister.
Iran denied that its intelligence services had hacked Gantz's phone.
"The (Israeli) regime's officials are long used to spreading lies," Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, according to the state news agency IRNA.
Gantz, for his part, has sought to focus public attention on the state's decision not to deem Netanyahu a suspect in a graft scandal over a German submarine deal. Netanyahu, who denies wrongdoing, faces possible indictment in three other corruption cases.
Netanyahu said there was more to be revealed about the contents of the ex-general's mobile phone.
"What do the Iranians know about you that you are hiding from us?" Netanyahu said. "And above all else, how would you, as prime minister, face up to Iran, our number one enemy, when Iran has sensitive information about you? This is not a matter of gossip. This is a matter of national security."
Netanyahu called on Gantz to come clean as "the only way not to be vulnerable to blackmail".
Speaking to the Israeli News Company TV station on Tuesday, Gantz said the Shin Bet had informed him six months ago that "there was a small problem - and I am taking care of it".
"I have a wonderful family. I have wonderful children. My wife supports me from here until further notice," he said.
Asked if there was anything on the phone that could be used for blackmail, Gantz said: "Nothing can have an influence over my performance."
(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in London; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Kevin Liffey)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.