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. Israeli foreign minister urges new sanctions on Iran
WASHINGTON, Aug 3 (AFP) Aug 03, 2008
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a contender to become prime minister, urged the international community on Sunday to act quickly on new sanctions against Iran, saying that Tehran views any hesitation as weakness.

Speaking on CNN, Livni said that "time is of the essence" in challenging Iran's nuclear drive after Tehran let pass a US deadline this weekend to respond to an international package of incentives to freeze its uranium enrichment operations or face new sanctions.

"It is clear that Iran doesn't pay attention to talks, and this is a clear message to the international community to continue with real and effective sanctions," Livni said.

"The international community is being watched, not only by Iran, but also by Iran's neighbors. And when the international community shows hesitation, this is being perceived as weakness."

Livni expressed concern that if Iran is not challenged over its nuclear drive, which Western powers believe is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, then Iran's moderate neighbors are likely to end up its allies.

"We live in a neighborhood in which whether you beat the bully or join it," she said.

She called for quick agreement on a fourth round of international sanctions threatened by Washington if Tehran continues to spurn the proposals of the six powers in the negotiations, the United States, Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France.

"We need to understand that we need to act today in terms of sanctions. Sanctions can be effective, as long as the Iranians and the entire world understand that all the options are on the table. This is what we need to do today."

Livni meanwhile said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks remained on track despite Israel's internal political turmoil after embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would resign in September.

"I support and still support deeply the Annapolis process," said Livni, who is among the top contenders to replace Olmert as leader of the centrist Kadima party and prime minister of the Jewish state.

"We decided and promised to make all the efforts to reach a peace treaty until the end of the year. We are making all the efforts to do so," she said.

"But what is more important is now the understanding between Israelis and the Palestinians that we are on the right track."

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