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Israeli Cabinet meeting in Berlin makes history

BERLIN — Israel's Cabinet convened Monday for the first time in Berlin, the former heart of the Nazi regime, for a special joint session with the German government highlighting the two nations' strong bond six decades after the Holocaust.

The focus, though, was not on threats gone by but on one that may loom in the future — the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.

After the joint session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Iran will face new sanctions if it doesn't change course on its nuclear program.

Germany's efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions figured high on the agenda, and Merkel said her country would back tougher sanctions against Iran if it did not curtail its nuclear program.

"If Iran's reactions don't change, we will help work on comprehensive sanctions," Merkel said.

Germany has long been part of the group of nations seeking to address concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions, which Israel and most of the West believe is meant to develop weapons. Israel considers a nuclear Iran a threat to its existence and has hinted it might attack Iran if international diplomacy fails.

Environmental issues, economic cooperation and efforts to restart the Middle East peace process were also discussed during the one-day visit by Netanyahu and six of his ministers — including his defense and foreign ministers.

Monday's session followed a historic visit in March 2008 by Merkel and her Cabinet to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence.

During that three-day visit, Merkel addressed the Israeli Parliament in German and expressed shame over the Holocaust. The 20-minute speech earned Merkel a standing ovation.

Israeli Cabinet meeting in Berlin makes history 01/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 10:17pm]
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