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. Olmert to London after winning French support on Iran
PARIS, Oct 23 (AFP) Oct 23, 2007
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert heads Tuesday to London for talks with his counterpart Gordon Brown after winning strong support in Paris in his efforts to halt arch foe Iran's nuclear drive.

Olmert, who said following his meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday that Israel and France shared "identical" views over Iran's nuclear programme, will try to clinch London's support for a new round of sanctions against Tehran.

After holding talks in Moscow last week with President Vladimir Putin, Britain is the third country that Olmert visits in less than a week which holds a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council to lobby for tighter sanctions on Tehran.

The Council is expected to discuss by the end of the year additional sanctions on Tehran.

"I am making a great effort to influence the European stand and I am in intensive contact with the European leadership," he told reporters. "There is an increasingly strengthening international and European awareness to the Iranian problem."

Israel and the West believe Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at developing an atomic bomb, a claim denied by Tehran.

Widely considered the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed nation, Israel considers Iran its chief enemy after repeated statements from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Jewish state should be wiped off the map.

In their first meeting since Brown's became prime minister in June, the two leaders will also discuss efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to outline a solution to the Middle East conflict ahead of a US-sponsored peace meeting later this year, Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.

Olmert also planned to meet with the leader of Britain's opposition Conservatives, David Cameron, as well as members of Britain's Jewish community.

Olmert will also meet with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, also in London for talks with Brown.

The last-minute talks were expected to focus on Iran as well as Israel's brazen air strike in Syria last month that raised Ankara's ire after Israeli jets allegedly crossed into Turkish airspace and dropped empty fuel tanks.

According to reports in the United States, the September 6 raid targeted a North Korean-constructed nuclear facility.

The Israeli premier said he had received France's full support on Iran.

"I couldn't have heard on the Iranian issue things that could more fall in line with my expectations," Olmert told reporters after his 90-minute meeting with Sarkozy.

The talks were "excellent and extremely frank and show an impressive level of similar views, even identical views, on parts of the issues on the agenda," said Olmert.

The Israeli prime minister said that they did not discuss military action to stop Iran's nuclear programme, focusing instead on the need for tougher sanctions.

"We focused on how to succeed on a wide range of actions that are not necessarily extremes," Olmert said, adding: "I believe we can succeed with them," referring to sanctions.

France has considerably toughened its position on Iran since Sarkozy was elected five months ago and has called for new sanctions.

French presidential spokesman David Martinon echoed the Israeli prime minister's upbeat assessment of the meeting, the first between the two leaders since Sarkozy took office in May.

"Israel and France share the view that the Iranian nuclear programme must be implemented with the greatest transparency and for peaceful ends," Martinon said.

"A nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable for France and for Israel," he said.

Olmert said in a speech before members of the French Jewish community that Russia, which opposes new sanctions against Tehran, is also against a nuclear Iran.

"I have no doubt that Putin does not want to see a nuclear Iran. The Russian president says he will not give a hand to any country that threatens Israel's security," he said.

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