Iran to top PM's agenda in Berlin

Olmert meets Germany's chancellor Merkel Monday; Israeli envoy: Bilateral ties to be upgraded.

olmert merkel 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
olmert merkel 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Tough economic sanctions against Iran are high on the agenda of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's two-day visit in Berlin, which began Sunday evening. These talks are intended to support efforts by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who along with Britain wants to establish a regime of unified European sanctions - independent of UN measures - against Teheran. Some EU countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain, have resisted such a move, preferring dialogue to stop an Iranian nuclear arms program. On the plane to Berlin, Olmert told reporters that Germany is a critical player both within Europe and in the United Nations when it came to stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to the Prime Minister's Office. He dismissed criticism of his trip abroad by opposition MKs who contended that he should not be leaving Israel in the aftermath of a terror attack in Dimona and intense rocket attacks from Gaza. "The issues that will be raised in Germany are vital to Israel's security," he told reporters on the plane. Olmert also plans to discuss with German leaders the situation between Israel and the Palestinians following the international November meeting in Annapolis. Israel's ambassador to Germany, Yoram Ben-Ze'ev, told The Jerusalem Post that the visit is important in that it will mark an upgrade in bilateral relations between the two countries. Germany, one of Israel's closest allies, is now including Israel in the small circle of allies such as Poland, Italy, Spain, Russia and France with which it works much more closely than with other countries, said Ben-Ze'ev. "You have to remember that there is almost daily contact [between Olmert and German Chancellor Angela Merkel]," said Ben-Ze'ev. The two countries' foreign ministers also communicate frequently, he added. The new upgrade, Ben-Ze'ev said, would be cemented next month when Merkel, along with some members of her cabinet, would arrive in Israel in honor of the country's 60th anniversary. Israeli and German officials plan to work on the structure of this new high-level relationship during the visit, he added. On Monday, Olmert visited Berlin's Jewish Museum and to meet with Merkel. The two leaders intend to talk again on Tuesday, when Olmert will also meet German President Horst Köhler and members of the parliament before returning to Israel late Tuesday.