Olmert in Berlin pledges to counter Iran nuclear threat

( dpa ) - The historical precedents could not have been clearer. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert came to Berlin to press for assistance in preventing a deadly threat to his country in the shape of Iran's nuclear programme.

But before telling Chancellor Angela that he was "certain the Iranians are engaged in a serious, partly clandestine, operation to build a non-conventional weapon," Olmert paid a private visit to the Jewish Museum, where the German attempt to exterminate the Jews in Europe is documented.

Berlin boasts Germany's largest Jewish community - some 12,000. Before the Nazi terror of the 1930s, that number was 160,000.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged to finish what the Nazis attempted - threatening to "wipe Israel from the face of the map."

And Olmert firmly believes he is working hard at acquiring the means.

The Israeli leader's visits to the Berlin sites commemorating Jewish suffering were held under conditions of tight security, but pictures taken by the few photographers admitted show a pensive Olmert walking through the Holocaust Memorial in the Jewish Museum.

He took a particular interest in the exhibition Persecution, Resistance, Extermination. There are also pictures showing him against the backdrop of photographs of Jews wearing the vertically striped uniforms of the concentration camps.

In another act that stressed the history hanging over the visit, Olmert stopped at the pomegranate tree at the entrance to fix a card in Hebrew.

"May this place serve as a memory and witness to what happened, and a hope for a future of flowering and flourishing for the Jewish people," it said.

The continuing threat to Jews in Germany was also apparent. Outside the Jewish Museum large concrete blocks were hoisted into place by police just last month in response to a perceived terrorist threat.

Snipers were positioned on nearby rooftops while Olmert was inside. And the street outside his hotel was closed for his stay.

Berlin police were unforthcoming about the security arrangements, but public broadcaster Phoenix said its information was that 1,000 officers had been deployed.

At the joint press conference with Merkel, Olmert made clear Israel would respond with vigour to threats to its existence from whatever quarter.

On the attacks from the Palestinian territories, he said the government was "absolutely determined to respond to the challenge of terrorism from Gaza in every possible manner which will be effective."

And on the threat of a potential Iranian nuclear weapon and whether Israel would consider a military response, he brought in Israel's most important ally, the United States.

"President (George W) Bush once said no options are ruled out," the Israeli premier said.

"I have nothing to add to this."

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