LONDON (Sep. 26)
Britain’s Foreign Minister Jack Straw says his country “stands squarely” behind Israel in its own fight against terrorism and has never implied that Israel has made the terrorists’ job easier.
His conciliatory remarks came after he held talks in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday night.
The meeting had been canceled by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon angry at words used by Straw in an Iranian newspaper article.
But the meeting was rescheduled after a 15-minute telephone conversation between the Israeli and British prime ministers.
Straw arrived in Israel on Tuesday afternoon fresh from his country’s first high-level visit to Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
His trip to Tehran was set up hurriedly as an effort to woo Iran into the American-led anti-terrorist coalition, for which Straw received guarded support.
Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah, which target Israel, and has been accused of harboring and training terrorists, and financing terrorist activities in several countries.
“I stand squarely behind Israel and against terror inflicted on it,” said Straw in remarks from Jerusalem carried on British television. He said that during his four-year stint as home secretary, the British government minister in charge of internal security, he had banned 21 pro-terrorist organizations, including the military wings of Hamas and Hezbollah.
“The purpose of my visit here is to deepen my understanding of the suffering of the people of Israel, but also to assist in the peace process,” he said.
The comments to which Israel had objected appeared to indicate a shift in British policy.
The word “Palestine” was used, rather than the usual noncommittal reference to Palestinian territories. Also, the words written by Straw appeared to Israelis to imply that Israel’s policies were at least in part responsible for allowing terrorism to flourish.