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Israeli Foreign Minister Holds Talks with Italian Leaders


Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni held talks Wednesday with Italian leaders in Rome and discussed the recent election victory by Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Iran's nuclear ambitions. The two leaders agreed that the international community must deal with Hamas and Iran with the same firmness.

Livni's visit to Rome is her first since being appointed foreign minister in an Israeli cabinet reshuffle in January. Her trip came one week before elections in Israel. Talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi focused on the peace process in the Middle East, in light of the recent election victory by Hamas in Palestinian elections and the imminent vote in Israel.

A statement from the prime minister's office said the two leaders agreed on the need to re-launch Middle East peace negotiations. They also agreed on the need that the new Palestinian leadership formed by Hamas renounce violence, recognize previously signed accords and the right to existence of the state of Israel.

The Israeli foreign mnister met with her Italian counterpart, Gianfranco Fini. Both agreed there is the need for the international community to be united and firm with Hamas as with Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

Fini spoke of the need to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a credible interlocutor with the Palestinian people, but this does not mean supporting Hamas, which the United States, the EU and Israel consider a terrorist organization.

"The less time Hamas takes to comply with the international community's demands, the greater the chance that a positive, long-term solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be found," Fini said.

Livni agreed and said that any ambiguous position by the international community would lead to deadlock and a new violent phase, closing the window of opportunity opened with Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

On the issue of Iran, both leaders agreed on the danger represented by Iran's failure to provide guarantees on its uranium enrichment program. Livni said now there is an understanding by the international community that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the world. She said diplomatic steps must be taken.

"We think that Iran is trying to gain some more time and during this time they are trying to promote, to get the know-how," she said. "How to make this nuclear bomb in the future. So this is the reason why we believe the time is working against us, well against the world in a way, against the free world and there's a need to take a strong position in terms of Security Council decisions."

The Israeli foreign minister then spoke of the upcoming elections in her country. She said she hoped Israeli public would give her centre party Kadima a power of attorney to represent it in the future. She also expressed the hope that Israel will find a Palestinian partner to negotiate a solution with.

Our goal, Livni said, is to keep Israel a secure and democratic Jewish state. We know, she added, that some of the rights of the Jewish people will have to be given up to reach a two-state solution in the land. But Israel cannot allow the establishment of a terror state that will prevent its existence.