Olmert brown 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
For the second day in a row, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday heard strong words from a key European leader for intensifying sanctions against Iran.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, following a meeting with Olmert, said his government would seek further sanctions against Iran in the United Nations and the European Union to stop Iran's nuclear march.
"We are absolutely clear that we are ready and will push for further sanctions against Iran; we will work through the UN to achieve this," Brown said. "We are prepared to have tougher European Union sanctions. We want to make it clear we don't support the nuclear ambitions."
Sanctions were "the way in which we can make it clear to the Iranian regime that we will not accept the course they are embarked upon," he said.
Olmert heard similar sentiments a day earlier from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, according to Olmert, sees eye-to-eye with Israel on the Iran nuclear issue.
"I congratulate you for your determination and leadership in not just supporting it, but making it very explicit and clear-cut, speaking for Britain on this very important issue," Olmert told Brown. "I am encouraged, as I heard very similar words yesterday from Sarkozy, and I'm very happy that both you and he are leading this policy together with the US and other European countries."
While obviously pleased by what he heard in France and England, those two countries have for long been firm in their commitment to stop the Iranians. The problem countries in Europe, according to Israeli officials, are Germany and Italy, where local companies continue to do robust business with Iran.
This was Olmert's first meeting with Brown since Brown became prime minister in June.
Following that meeting, Olmert met Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was also in London on Tuesday. That 90-minute private meeting took place just before Olmert left London in the evening to return home.
Erdogan wanted to discuss with Olmert a number of issues, Turkish officials said before the meeting, including the resolution before the US Congress characterizing the World War I-era massacre of Armenians as genocide, as well as the upcoming meeting in Annapolis, which Turkey has made it clear it was interested in attending. The officials said Turkey was still looking for Israeli help in lobbying Congress so that the resolution doesn't pass when it comes to the full House.
The tension along the Iraqi-Turkish border was also thought to play a prominent role in the talks, as were persistent rumors that private Israeli security personnel were training the PKK in northern Iraq. These rumors have been emerging in the press for years, with Israel consistently denying that the state was in any way connected with the Kurdish guerrillas. While individual Israeli "mercenaries" might be involved, one Israeli official said, since they are in various other unsavory parts of the globe, they were in no way connected to the state.
Regarding Brown's message on Iran, Olmert, at the joint press conference, said he felt economic sanctions were effective.
"They have had an important impact already, but they are not sufficient," he said. "So there should be more. Up to where? Up until Iran will stop its nuclear program."
"We think it is time for the international community to step up efforts to make sure the Iranians understand the absolute determination of the leading nations of the world to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear capacity," Olmert said.
As the two leaders met in London, EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana was due to meet in Rome with Saeed Jalili, Iran's newly appointed chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, and his predecessor, Ali Larijani.
Brown sidestepped a question about when military action might be necessary.
"I believe sanctions are working," he said. "I believe that we should step them up if it becomes necessary, and they will be shown to be working even more successfully.
"I believe the combination of our willingness to go through the UN process, which we will do, and our ability to take sanctions as a European Union, sends the strongest possible message to Iran," Brown said.
Olmert was asked a question by Al Jazeera about the death of a Palestinian prisoner in Ketziot Prison on Tuesday, following Monday's riot there, and whether Israel planned to release more Palestinian prisoners ahead of the planned meeting in Annapolis.
Olmert said the fact Israel was freeing some prisoners was causing unrest among the Hamas members in Israeli jails.
"We don't release Hamas prisoners, we release Fatah prisoners because Fatah is a political movement that is prepared to negotiate with Israel, to make peace with Israel and refrain from terror," he said. "Hamas is involved in terror. Hamas prisoners who are released will immediately engage in terrorist actions against innocent Israeli civilians.
"We have released hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and we will consider the release of more, but none of them will be Hamas as they continue to be engaged in terrorist actions against Israel."
During the news conference, Olmert was asked if he was willing to have the draft document that is expected to be presented at the Annapolis meeting address "final-status" issues such as borders, refugees and dividing Jerusalem.
"No one can seriously expect that within this short span of time between now and the end of November we can achieve what we haven't been doing in the last 40 years," he said.
Olmert added that the purpose of the Annapolis meeting was to "provide an umbrella of international support for the efforts that the Palestinians and we are making in order to start serious, detailed negotiations that will lead to the creation of a two-state solution."
Brown said the Annapolis talks were an important step forward, but that people should not have false hopes about the outcome.
"We stand ready to give economic help to the Palestinian people," he said, if they can reach an "agreement to a two-state solution that protects the security of Israel."
AP contributed to this report.