NEW YORK - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Amir Peretz met Wednesday with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for talks that focused on the ongoing weapons smuggling into southern Lebanon and the fate of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
"[Security Council] Resolution 1701 is not complete so long as the abducted soldiers have not returned home and the arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon continues," said Peretz.
Peretz stressed that the UNIFIL peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon is doing a good job, but should take more significant steps and take the initiative against Hezbollah.
As far as Israel is concerned, Peretz said, prevention of weapons smuggling is key to keeping stability in southern Lebanon.
Livni also addressed the issue of the captured soldiers, and expressed concern regarding Hezbollah's deployment in southern Lebanon.
In response, Ban stressed the UN's commitment to fully implementing Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the second Lebanon war. "I am are of the Israeli concern regarding what is happening on the Syrian-Lebanese border," he said.
According to one of the meeting's participants, the secretary general was especially understanding of Israel's analysis of the Palestinian Authority unity government deal between Hamas and Fatah.
"Not always with Israel be happy with what it hears, but the direction [of the unity government] is right," said Ban.
The conversation also touched briefly on Ban's planned trip to the Middle East, scheduled for March 25, in which the secretary general will spend one day in Israel and the PA each.
The three-way meeting was held in the secretary general's office, and was also attended by Israel's envoy to the UN Dan Gillerman. The Israeli delegation described the meeting, which lasted roughly 50 minutes, as "friendly and positive."
Toward the end of the meeting, the aides left the room, leaving Ban, Livni, and Peretz to talk privately.
Israel urges harsher sanctions on IranLivni and Peretz also urged the UN Security Council to impose stricter sanctions against Iran, saying Iran's nuclear ambitions threaten the whole world.
The talks took place ahead of the first meeting of all 15 Security Council members to discuss a new Iran resolution that will toughen sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment program, which can produce energy or nuclear weapons.
"We expect the Security Council to take another resolution and to expand and to strengthen the sanctions on Iran because the world cannot live with a nuclear Iran," Livni told reporters.
"This is clear - and it is clear that their goal is to pursue a nuclear weapon," she said.
"As time is of the essence because while we are talking, they are working ... to master the technology and to achieve this goal. So we have to stop it," Livni added.
Iran insists its enrichment program is peaceful and aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the U.S., European nations and the UN nuclear watchdog are concerned that Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
The modest package of new sanctions against Iran is likely to include an embargo on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran's nuclear and missile programs, council diplomats said. It is also likely to include a ban on government loans to Iran and restrictions - but no ban - on arms imports or on export credit guarantees for companies doing business in Iran, the diplomats said.
Livni said Iran's government, which speaks publicly of wiping Israel off the map, denies the Holocaust and is based on extreme Islamic ideology, is viewed as a threat not only by Israel but by Iran's neighbors, other Arab Muslim countries and the Gulf states.
"It is being understood by the free world," Livni said. "Now, the international community is working through the Security Council, but there's a need to take everybody on board. And when taking everybody on board the meaning is sometimes compromised on the sanctions."
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