Israeli prime minister urges economic sanctions for Iran

Iran Materials 15 February 2007 17:03 (UTC +04:00)

(www.ap.org) вЂ" Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to a Turkish inspection of the construction work at disputed holy site in Jerusalem, the Turkish prime minister said Thursday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Olmert had shown him photographs of the construction work during a meeting between the two, but failed to convince him that it would not harm the holy sites there. The Israeli premier agreed to a Turkish suggestion for a technical team from Turkey to inspect the site, he said.

The dispute centers on a new walkway Israel is building to the compound known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount. The walkway is meant to replace an earthen ramp that partially collapsed in a snowstorm three years ago. Israeli work at the site has prompted clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police during the past week, reports Trend.

The Turkish leader had criticized Israel for allowing the construction near a disputed holy site in Jerusalem a day before Olmert's arrival.

Olmert arrived in Turkey late Wednesday for a two-day visit, hoping to discuss ways to rein in Iran's suspected efforts to build nuclear weapons.

The Israeli leader said in remarks published Thursday that tougher economic sanctions against Iran would force Tehran to "review" its nuclear program.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed limited sanctions on Iran, but many countries are reluctant to go further and cut all trade ties to the energy-rich country. Washington has urged European nations to follow the U.S. in cutting such ties with Tehran.

"If economic sanctions were imposed, Iran would be forced to review its position," Olmert said in an apparent reference to a more robust approach to sanctions.

"I believe that Turkey and many other countries will need to change their ties with Iran," he said in an interview with Turkey's Milliyet newspaper. Turkey buys natural gas from Iran.

The U.N. Security Council agreed in December to impose sanctions targeting people and programs linked to Iran's nuclear program, which the United States, the European Union and others fear is being used to make weapons. Under the Dec. 23 decision, Iran was given two months to return to negotiations.

Erdogan was expected to press Olmert to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Olmert had earlier said he expected productive talks with Turkish leaders. He was scheduled to meet with Erdogan, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Thursday before returning home.

Turkey's Islamic government has good relations with both Syria and Hamas, the militant Islamic group that heads the Palestinian government, and also with Iran, with which it shares a long border.

Israel considers Iran a strategic threat, suspecting that Iran is building nuclear weapons, despite its denials. Iran's president has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map. Olmert hopes to enlist Turkey in accelerated efforts to keep Iran from going nuclear.