FILE PHOTO: Tehran's militia burn symbolic structures depicting the flags of the U.S., Britain, and Israel during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran. The green banner reads, "Saud family", referring to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. REUTERS/

 – Israel and Arab countries that share its worries about Iran should build up a joint force under a U.S. aegis, the Israeli defence minister said on Tuesday ahead of a visit to the region by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Iran nuclear programme, and so-far fruitless international negotiations to revive a 2015 deal capping it, are among issues likely to be on Biden’s agenda when he comes to Israel and Saudi Arabia next month. Read full story

In a speech, Defence Minister Benny Gantz cited Israel’s security ties with the Persian Gulf’s Arab states that drew closer to it under a 2020 U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive, as well as Egypt and Jordan, and said there were efforts to expand such cooperation.

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“What is needed is not just cooperation, but also a regional force build-up, with American leadership, which would strengthen all parties involved,” he said, according to an official transcript.

The original Hebrew did not make clear whether “force” referred to a joint military unit or more general capabilities.

“On this, we are working continually, for the sake of the security of Israel’s citizens,” Gantz said.

Saudi Arabia signalled its backing for the so-called Abraham Accords under which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain forged relations with Israel two years ago. But Riyadh has stopped short of formally recognising neighbouring Israel.

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(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by James Mackenzie and Angus MacSwan)

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