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Israel Criticizes Germany

DW staff / DPA / AFP (kh)December 11, 2006

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has warned Germany against drawing Syria into the Middle East peace process a day before he meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday in Berlin.

Olmert is to meet with the German chancellor on TuesdayImage: AP

Syria was actively involved in acts of terrorism against the legitimate government in Lebanon, Olmert said in a television interview on the N24 news channel.

Olmert also called the visit by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Syria last week "a mistake," saying Steinmeier failed to criticize the government during his stay. Olmert said Syria was also a backer of terrorists in Iraq.

"Is that the right basis for a visit by the German Foreign Minister?" Olmert said.

Libanon Hisbollah Demonstration mit Flagge in Beirut
Thousand's of Lebanese have protested against Prime Minister Fouad SenioraImage: AP

After a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Berlin on Sunday, Merkel said Germany continued to back Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora, whose government is under threat from pro-Syrian political forces.

Merkel criticized Syria for failing to take "constructive steps" to help defuse the crisis.

Until it was forced to pull out its military following the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, Syria was the main power broker in Lebanon

Focus on Middle East Quartet

Meanwhile, the German government restated its plans to revitalize the Middle East peace process when Germany assumes the rotating EU presidency on Jan. 1.

German government spokesperson Thomas Steg said in Berlin on Monday that a solution to the crisis was impossible without the Middle East Quartet -- made up of the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations -- which launched the so-called "roadmap" for peace in the region in 2003.

"There isn't a better forum or a better approach than the Quartet," Steg said.

During his visit, the Israeli leader is also expected to ask Merkel to support sanctions against Iran that are currently under discussion by the UN Security Council.

In his N24 interview, Olmert said Iran was a "test case" for the German-Israeli relationship, and warned Germany against being soft on Iran because of the strong economic ties between the two countries.

Deutscher Flottenverband unterwegs in den Libanon
German ships are part of an international force maintaining the ceasefire between Isael and LebanonImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Other issues are expected to be the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon and a continued European Union economic blockade of the Hamas-led government in the Palestinian territories.

Olmert is then to travel to Rome where he meets with his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi on Wednesday.

Italy is due to take over in February the leadership of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon. As part of the UN force, German navy ships have been patrolling the Lebanese coast to prevent arms smuggling into the country.

It will be Olmert's first visit to Germany and Italy since taking office in April this year.