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Israel, US Discuss Tightening Iran Sanctions


Senior Israeli and American officials are seeking ways to increase the economic pressure on Iran. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, it is the latest in a series of consultations between the two countries aimed at getting Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed how to tighten sanctions on Iran with Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Officials say Israel is helping the United States identify firms that do business with Iran and track Iranian funding for nuclear and terrorist activities. Levey told Olmert about U.S. efforts to get international businesses to stop working with Iran.

Mr. Olmert's office said both men agreed that every effort must be made to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about Iran's nuclear program since late 2005, when the Iranian president threatened to wipe the Jewish state "off the map." Israeli officials believe Iran is quickly heading for the point of no return where it will acquire the technology, equipment and know-how to build an atomic bomb.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the international community must take tougher action before it is too late.

"I think it is possible to stop Iran," said Netanyahu. "I think it is absolutely necessary to stop Iran."

But Israel believes the international community is wasting precious time on fruitless negotiations that are allowing Iran to stall. Netanyahu hopes the United States will push its European allies toward a tougher approach.

"This requires the amassing of pressure, diplomatic pressure from the international community, economic pressure, moral pressure in public opinion and other pressures," he said. "The bigger the stick the less likely that it will have to be used."

And Israel is carrying a stick of its own to goad the Western powers into action. Officials have warned time and again that if international sanctions fail, Israel might act on its own and launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

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