Solana: PM, Lieberman at odds on Iran
EU's foreign policy chief: "I have disagreed with [Lieberman] my entire life."
By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
October 25, 2006 16:02
2 minute read.
lieberman, solana 298 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his incoming minister without portfolio Avigdor Lieberman, who will be responsible for strategizing on the Iranian nuclear threat, are at odds about how to handle Iran, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana told The Jerusalem Post following a meeting with Lieberman at the Knesset.
Solana to visit J'lem first on ME tour
Solana arrived in Israel on Wednesday as the first stop in a six-nation Middle East tour that will include meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders as well as visits to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. He hopes to jump-start talks between Palestinians and Israelis while he is the region and to breathe new life into the peace process.
But talks on Iran are also part of his agenda. Solana said that from his many past conversations with Olmert about Iran, "it will be difficult for Lieberman to be compatible with Olmert's ideas on the matter."
Earlier Wednesday, Solana kicked off the trip with a tense exchange with Lieberman, about whom he said, "I have disagreed with [Lieberman] my entire life."
Lieberman, meanwhile, said the meeting was an opportunity to exchange ideas. "I will try to explain our approach, our plan," he said. He said his ideas were more "humanitarian and comprehensive than any other I know on the table today. And I hope that this will be the first and not the last meeting."
A Lieberman aide said Solana initiated the meeting to sound out the positions of the new minister, and Lieberman gladly obliged.
Solana, who often meets with opposition members, said that when he visits Israel, he sees all "relevant" people.
"I talk to Kadima and their policy is the opposite," Solana said before the meeting.
He said that despite Lieberman's presence in the government, he did not expect Olmert's policies to change.
MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) condemned the meeting, saying it gave legitimacy to Lieberman, whom he compared to France's nationalist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and Austria's Joerg Haider.
"I spoke to Solana and told him it was a problematic meeting and it would have been better if it did not take place," he said. "The EU has a lot to say about Le Pen and Haider and it is too bad that what is not allowed for a European fascist is allowed for an Israeli fascist."
Solana met later Wednesday with Olmert and is scheduled to meet with other senior Israeli and Palestinian officials before heading to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.
Solana said Olmert remained open to a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to try to revive peace talks. However, EU officials remained pessimistic that the meeting would take place any time soon.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said the exchange, which focused on Palestinian matters and Iran, had been positive one.
Solana plans to meet with Abbas on Thursday as well as with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Tovah Lazaroff and AP contributed to this report.