Iran will 'annihilate' cities if Israel attacks: Khamenei

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Iran will “annihilate” the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa if it comes under attack by the Jewish state, the Islamic republic's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Thursday.

“Every now and then the leaders of the Zionist regime threaten Iran with a military attack,” Khamenei said in a live televised speech from the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, referring to Israel.

“They should know that if they commit such a blunder, the Islamic republic will annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa,” he said.

This comes after Israel welcomes the assurances U.S. President Barack Obama gave on the Iranian nuclear programme, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.

"The president is firmly committed to acting against Iran's nuclear programme and to strengthening military, diplomatic and intelligence cooperation between the two countries," newly sworn-in Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said.

"The president also announced the start of discussions on the extension of US military aid to Israel beyond 2017," said Steinitz, whose responsibilities also include international relations.

At a joint news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, Obama said Washington would enter talks to renew a multi-billion-dollar military aid package for Israel after it expires in 2017.

He also said he "would not expect that the prime minister would make a decision about his country's security and defer that to any other country."

"The important thing is that aid to Israel is not conditional on Israel abandoning its right to self-defence and ability to make independent decisions on all threats, including the Iranian one," Steinitz said.

Israeli public radio said Netanyahu and Obama had "reached a deal" whereby the Israeli premier for the first time clearly said he believed in the president's commitment to not allow Iran to achieve military nuclear arms, and in exchange Obama acknowledged Israel's right to self-defence.

Western powers suspect Iran's civilian nuclear programme is a cover for a quest to achieve nuclear arms, a claim the Islamic republic denies.

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