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Iranian Nuclear Issue High on Agenda for Chinese, Israeli Leaders


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is in China, where he aims to persuade Beijing to press for sanctions against Iran if it defies a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting trade in materials that could be used for nuclear bombs. As Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing, the visit also has a personal resonance.

Ehud Olmert met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. Mr. Olmert is seeking Chinese support in holding Iran to a U.N. resolution outlawing trade in materials Iran could use for nuclear bomb making. The resolution is designed to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions, which it says are strictly for peaceful production of electricity.

Iran's top negotiator, Ali Larijani, recently visited Beijing.

Mr. Olmert is to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday to mark the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

This first visit by Mr. Olmert as prime minister is personally meaningful for the Israeli leader. His parents fled Russia to China to escape persecution.

"Indeed this is very exciting moment for me," he said. "And, I wish my parents were alive for them to be able to see that we have come back to the place where my family came from to strengthen the relations between two great countries and two great nations."

Aside from the personal resonance, Mr. Olmert has a complex political path to follow.

Beijing buys oil from Iran and its approach to the Iranian nuclear issue has been much softer than that of the United States and Europe.

China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and along with Russia has leaned toward further talks rather than pressure on Iran.

But last month China supported a U.N. resolution imposing sanctions on Iran's trade in nuclear materials and technology.

Occasional political clashes have erupted between China and Israel, most recently when China invited the foreign minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government to a conference in Beijing. Hamas has vowed to see the destruction of Israel.

China was also one of the first countries to recognize a Palestinian state and has historically favored the Palestinians over the Israelis in the Middle East conflict.

But, in recent years Beijing has developed close relations with the Israelis as well.

Trade between China and Israel has risen dramatically in recent years. China is Israel's third-largest trading partner after the United States and Germany.