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. Olmert heads to Germany for talks on Iran
JERUSALEM, Feb 10 (AFP) Feb 10, 2008
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was due to travel to Berlin on Sunday where he was expected to push for further international measures to halt Iran's nuclear drive, officials said.

"During his visit to Germany, the second in 14 months, Olmert will discuss the serious problem of Iran's nuclear programme," an Israeli government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"We expect further efforts in terms of economic and political pressure on Iran to renounce its nuclear projects, and Germany is a key player in this," the official added.

Israel has long considered Iran its greatest threat, especially since the Islamic republic has relaunched its nuclear enrichment programme, and the issue figured strongly in Olmert's previous visit to Germany in December 2006.

Western powers fear that Iran could use uranium enrichment, which can also make the fissile core of an atom bomb, for military purposes. Iran denies the charges and says it only wants to meet the country's growing energy needs.

Israel's Mossad spy agency estimates that Iran is only three years away from developing a nuclear weapon despite a US intelligence estimate last year that said it mothballed its weapons programme in 2003.

Israel -- the region's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state -- has claimed that although Iran may have temporarily halted its weapons drive five years ago it has since relaunched it.

While in Germany Olmert will meet with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, its President Horst Koehler, parliamentary representatives and leaders of the local Jewish community.

"We have a special relationship with Germany," the official said, referring to the genocide of six million Jews at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II.

"We want to develop relations, which are excellent, on the political, economic, and bilateral level, because Germany plays a crucial role, especially within the European Union," the official said.

Olmert is also expected to discuss ongoing peace talks with the Palestinians which were formally relaunched under US auspices in November but have since bogged down on the issue of Jewish settlements and ongoing violence in Gaza.

Israel and Germany established formal diplomatic relations in 1965, and Merkel is expected to attend celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state in May.

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