Merkel, Olmert offer Iran stances

Germany and Israel agree on the danger of a nuclear Iran, but not on the response.

At a news conference Tuesday in Berlin following their official meetings, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made their different approaches clear: In pressuring the Islamic regime, Merkel looks to sanctions and diplomacy, while Olmert says all options are open.

Uranium enrichment must cease, Merkel said, but the threat of sanctions must be coupled with offers of cooperation. United Nations sanctions are not meant to “punish the Iranian people,” she said.

Olmert, who is visiting Germany for three days, said that while “it is very important to use diplomatic means,” when all else fails, other reactions are possible.

Tuesday’s meeting is one of a series of events planned marking Israel’s 60th anniversary this year. In March, the countries will hold their first-ever joint Cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem.

During the news conference, Merkel and Olmert emphasized their commitment to building youth exchange between the two countries. Germany is Israel’s biggest supporter outside the United States in terms of economic and defense ties.

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