Netanyahu talks tougher sanctions on Iran in Berlin

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Berlin for talks with his German counterpart Angela Merkel has pressed the Chancellor to halt trade with Iran.

Netanyahu thanked the German state for its tough stance on Iran’s nuclear aspirations but said there is room for further sanctions:

“I think that the most important thing that we could put in place are what the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called “crippling sanctions”. It is possible to put real pressure, real economic pressure on this regime if the major powers of the world unite,” said Netanyahu.

Merkel said further sanctions against Iran will be considered in September then demanded a halt to the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank:

“We believe and end to settlement construction is a precondition to kickstart the peace process,” she said.

Before meeting with Merkel Netanyahu was handed the original blueprints of the Auschwitz death camp.

He will pass on the 29 documents, which were found in a Berlin apartment last year, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

More than one million Jews, Roma and others were killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz close to the Polish city of Krakow.


Slovak embassy attacked in Hungary

The Slovak embassy in Hungary has been attacked but got off lightly when two supposed Molotov cocktails thrown at the entrance failed to ignite. No one was hurt and no one immediately claimed responsibility.

A Foreign ministry source said the incident reflected a period of increased sensitivity in Slovak-Hungarian relations.

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom cancelled a private visit to Slovakia on Friday after Bratislava called it a provocation. It was the anniversary of the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of what was then Czechoslovakia, when the Hungarian army formed part of the invasion force.

Solyom had been invited by the local authority of the mostly ethnically Hungarian town of Komarno to attend the unveiling of a statue of Stephen I, the first king of Hungary a thousand years ago.

The incident showed rising tensions between Bratislava and Budapest, which have had frequent diplomatic clashes about the treatment of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Both countries, EU member states, clearly criticised the act against the embassy as a rogue attack.

Netanyahu gets noisy London welcome

The protestors were kept well away, but their chanting against the Israeli prime minister was audible outside Downing street.

Benjamin Netanyahu has begun a European visit by stopping off in London for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the US’s middle east envoy George Mitchell.

Netanyahu has again been defending Israeli settler’s rights, insisting they are improving, not expanding their territory.

“We have about a quarter of a million such people (settlers). They lead lives. They have children they have to go to school. They need classrooms, they need kindergartens. They need to have a place to house the families. This is very different from grabbing land and I’ve made it very clear we’re not going to build new settlements or expropriate additional land for existing ones,” he said.

Netanyahu says he thinks peace talks with the Palestinians could resume as early as September, with his office hinting at a possible Netanyahu- Mahmoud Abbas meeting in Washington with President Obama.

A sign of better ties between the two Koreas

The South Korean president has met with two North Korean officials for the first time since taking office 18 months ago. Lee Myung-bak has been labelled by the North as a “traitor to the state” for hardening his country’s stance against its neighbour, and making aid dependent on nuclear disarmament.

That aid had come with no strings attached under former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who died last week. The North Korean delegation returned to Pyongyang just before his state funeral today. The six officials had come to pay respect to a man whose “Sunshine Policy” ushered in warmer relations between the two countries. He won the Nobel peace prize in 2000 after brokering a summit that went some way to healing the wounds of two countries still officially at war.

The North’s recent nuclear tests and the South’s more hardline approach have seen relations become frostier. Today’s meeting is a sign of a new thaw.

Israel want Swedish apology over “organ trade”

A diplomatic row has erupted between Sweden and Israel over an allegedly anti-semitic newspaper article. Israel wants an apology after the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet repeated claims that Israeli troops stole and then sold the organs of Palestinians who died in custody in the early 1990s.

But Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, has rejected Israeli calls for official condemnation saying freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy. The Swedish government’s refusal to criticise the story has provoked in outrage in Israel with the issue discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting.

Israel’s Science and Technology Minister, Daniel Hershkowitz said: “It’s an unacceptable behaviour of the government of Sweden and I very much hope that it will find very soon the proper way to condemn that publication in the Swedish newspaper.”

The paper’s editor Jan Helin said: “It’s deeply unpleasant and sad to see such a strong propaganda machine using centuries-old anti-Semitic images in an apparent attempt to get an obviously topical issue off the table.”