GENEVA (Reuters) - Israel’s deputy prime minister confirmed on Saturday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had visited Russia but declined to elaborate on the affair, which has triggered media accusations of official disinformation.
“He was in Russia. It created some controversy about the way it was published in Israel,” Dan Meridor told Reuters in Geneva on the sidelines of a conference about global issues hosted by Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“The content was not discussed in public. Some things are better discussed (privately),” added Meridor, who is also Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy.
Netanyahu angered some Israeli newspapers on Thursday over what they described as lies issued by his office about a secret flight to Russia.
Explaining why he had disappeared from public view for a day, a statement issued on Monday by the prime minister’s office quoted his military attache as saying that Netanyahu had visited a security installation in Israel.
Israeli media reported he had toured a facility of the Mossad intelligence agency. But on Wednesday, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Netanyahu had, in fact, flown secretly to Moscow to voice concern over the possible sale of Russian anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
Reports of the Moscow visit followed the interception by Russian warships of a cargo ship off West Africa last month. Media reports, denied by Russia, said the Arctic Sea was carrying to Iran S-300 missiles that were detected by Israel.
The air defense missiles issue has been a sore point in relations between Moscow and Israel, which has lobbied Russia to pull away from selling them to Iran, saying they could protect nuclear facilities if Israel was to launch air strikes.
Reporting by William Maclean
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