(photo credit: Associated Press)
Despite concerns of government officials that the international community has been moving too slowly on Iran, a special ministerial meeting on the issue Thursday endorsed the diplomatic approach to halting the Islamic republic's quest to become a nuclear power.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who convened the discussion, stressed that the efforts against Iran were being led by the international community.
"Israel supports the UN Security Council measures against Iran," he said, backing the strategy of sanctions and the refusal of an Iranian compromise proposal that would have allowed the country to continue to develop its nuclear capabilities.
The five permanent members of the Security Council have agreed to start work on UN sanctions next week but have failed to bridge differences on how harsh the penalties should be, international diplomats and officials said Thursday.
They told The Associated Press that while the US had called for broad sanctions to punish Iran's nuclear defiance, Russian and Chinese representatives at a top-level meeting in Vienna Wednesday favored less severe measures.
At the ministerial meeting, Olmert said North Korea's recent nuclear test "only underscored the international community's need to urgently, determinedly and vigorously deal with the issue."
North Korea and Iran will be high on the agenda when Olmert meets with President Vladimir Putin in Russia next week. Many Israeli analysts see Russia as the key to sanctions against Iran and hope North Korea's actions will convince Putin to throw his support behind harsh sanctions, something he has so far declined to do.
Joining Olmert at Thursday's meeting were Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, Seniors Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan and top officials in the security establishment.
One minister's aide said the meeting focused on coordination and making the public relations case rather than on operational issues such as planning military tactics should sanctions fail. He called it an effort to have the government "speak in one voice" on the contentious issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.