Israel PM heads to Russia to press for sanctions

Israel’s Livni heads for China with campaign for fresh Iran sanctions
Olmert left on an air force business jet with four top advisors in order to press Putin to support a new round of sanctions against Iran, which the UN Security Council plans to discuss before the end of the year.

“The prime minister believes that effective and general sanctions can be very useful and he certainly supports raising the level of dipolomatic and economic sanctions against Iran,” a senior government source told AFP.

But the Russian head of state adopted a different stance, saying that direct dialogue was preferrable to sanctions, while dismissing reports of an assassination plot against him in Tehran as an attempt to “wreck” his visit.

“Direct dialogue with states where there are problems are always more productive and a quicker path to success than the path of threats, sanctions or even force,” Putin said in a televised question-and-answer session.

According to media reports, Olmert will present Putin with satellite images showing progress in the development of several nuclear sites in Iran.

Israel, widely regarded as the sole if undeclared nuclear armed power in the Middle East, considers the Islamic republic’s programme a cover for developing atomic weapons — a charge that Tehran vehemently denies.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is to visit China to lobby for intensified United Nations sanctions against Iran, officials and news reports said Thursday.

Local daily Yediot Ahronot said Livni would leave for Beijing on Saturday to try to persuade the Chinese not to veto a new round of economic sanctions against Iran, which is suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but Western powers are skeptical and are trying to pressure Iran to abandon atomic arms production hopes through diplomatic and economic sanctions.

An Israeli foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity as Livni’s trip has not yet been officially announced, said she planned to pay a brief visit to China “in the near future” for talks that would include the Iran issue.

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