Text size

Speaking to Jewish group in London on Tuesday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert revealed that at his meeting last week in Moscow with the Russian president, he learned that "Russia has decided not to supply nuclear fuel to Iran."

Olmert's talk followed a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, after their meeting on Tuesday. Brown told reporters at that press conference that Iran's behavior is "unacceptable," and said that his country supports stepping up the sanctions against Tehran, both in the United Nations Security Council and also through the European Union.

Brown also called for progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and offered British assistance for development of the Palestinian economy.

Brown began the press conference by declaring his friendship for Israel. "I have been a long-term friend of Israel," Brown said. "I have enjoyed my visits to Israel. Over many, many years my father [who was a minister in the Church of Scotland] spent many months in Israel," he added.

Olmert said that "Brown's message on the sanctions is the right type of message. Economic sanctions can be effective, they already are effective, and another step is necessary so that Iran can cease its nuclear program.

The Israeli leader refused to address the possibility that the sanctions may fail or whether that could lead to a military operation by the United States or Israel against Iran.

In his address before representatives of the Jewish community in London, Olmert also said that "if we come to terms today with the Iranian nuclear program, in the future we will need to pay an unacceptable price, one that we cannot tolerate. This is a long process that will not be resolved in the near future, but I am optimistic."

Olmert said that Israel is part of an overall international effort against Iran, which is being led by the great powers, and not, he stressed, by Israel.

"I can reveal one detail of my meeting with Russian President Putin last week," Olmert said. "Russia has decided not to supply nuclear fuel to Iran, in spite of all the declarations and the rumors. Russia understands the implications of its decision, and understands that the international community expects it not to supply that nuclear fuel."

The prime minister said that the Iranians maintain that they are close to reaching the "technological point of no return" in developing independent nuclear capability, in an effort to convince the international community that there is no point in pressuring them further.

"They are not as far [from that point] as we would have liked, but also not as close as they are trying to portray. Therefore, there is an essential need now to pressure Iran, to force them to pay the kind of price that will make them change their stance."

Olmert discussed extensively the negotiations with the Palestinians in preparation for November's planned Annapolis peace summit.

"This is not a conference," he said. "When we say conference, we think about a few days of talks and negotiations between the participants. This is not the aim of the meeting at Annapolis, that from the start was meant to create the atmosphere that would encourage direct bilateral talks. We hope that we will be able to achieve a joint declaration prior to the meeting."

The prime minister reiterated that "from the start we did not talk about a framework for a final settlement or a solution for all the issues that are still open, by later November and early December. It is hard to think that during such a short period it will be possible to solve the problems that have preoccupied us for 40 years, formulate [solutions] and rally support for them. This is not realistic and it is best not to create unrealistic expectations, so that we will not have to later deal with failure.

"When the day comes for a final settlement, we will have to make painful sacrifices," Olmert said. "The Israeli public opinion will accept them, so long as the agreement will guarantee what is essential for the State of Israel - security for every one, safeguarding the Jewish and democratic character of the state, and also help for the creation of a Palestinian state that will be a homeland for the Palestinians."

Olmert also said that he too is debating the question of whether the current Palestinian government is capable of implementing agreements it may sign with Israel.

As a result of these concerns, he said, "we have decided that the implementation will be carried out according to the stages of the road map, and these begin with fighting against terrorism."

The prime minister also defended his decision to hold negotiations with the government of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, even with the doubts about its ability to carry out its decision.

"Any further delay may bring the moderates [in the PA] down, and in three years we would have Hamas in their place," Olmert warned.