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Israeli, German Leaders Share Concerns on Iran

The leaders of Israel and Germany say they share concerns over Iran's nuclear program. VOA's Jim Teeple reports the comments were made during a visit to Israel by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the second day of her three-day visit to Israel. At a joint news conference, Mr. Olmert said the two leaders share concerns over Iran's nuclear program.

Mr. Olmert says German and Israel are concerned about Iran's attempts to enrich uranium and agree that steps need to be taken to stop those efforts.

Iran says its nuclear enrichment program is for peaceful purposes only, but the U.N. Security council recently tightened sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend its enrichment activities.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Merkel addresses the Israeli Knesset, or parliament. Ms. Merkel says her visit to Israel is designed to strengthen the Mideast peace process, however she will not be visiting the Palestinian territories because the specific purpose of her trip to Israel is specifically tied to the Jewish state's 60th anniversary observances which take place in May.

The German Chancellor says Germany has a historical responsibility to Israel for carrying out the Holocaust, and that ties between Germany and Israel are deep and warm.

In his remarks, Israel's Prime Minister rejected calls to stop building homes in occupied East Jerusalem. Referring to a neighborhood known as Har Homa, where thousands of homes have been built for Israelis, Mr. Olmert said Har Homa is an inseparable part of Jerusalem.

Israeli construction in East Jerusalem has been criticized by U.S. officials, and strongly condemned by Palestinians, who say it undermines efforts to reach a peace agreement by the end of this year - something Israeli and Palestinian leaders have pledged to do.

But Mr. Olmert said the construction work should have no effect on the talks that officially resumed on Monday. Israeli and Palestinian officials have refused to comment on the negotiations saying talking about them publicly would undermine any chance of success.