Olmert to Putin: Russia must help solve Iran crisis


By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

MOSCOW - Russia must exert its influence to help solve the international standoff surrounding Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

"Russia has a central and very important role in the world, especially with regard to the nuclear standoff which is worrying us all," Olmert said in his opening remarks to the Russian president.

Putin himself praised Russia's ties with Israel, which he said in the last few years had remarkably improved due to the "mutual faith" exhibited by borth countries. He also attributed the friendly relations to the large population of Russian emigrants in Israel.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said international action over Tehran's nuclear program must be in proportion to the real situation in Iran, which he added does not appear to include a threat to peace and security.

"It is necessary to act on Iran but that action should be in direct proportion to what is really happening," the RIA news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

"And what is really happening is what the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] reports to us. And the IAEA is not reporting to us about the presence there of a threat to peace and security," said Lavrov.

Russian President Valdimir Putin was to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday. Olmert arrived in Moscow Tuesday for a three-day visit.

The Russian government made a few gestures in honor of Olmert's visit and the 15th anniversary of the renewal of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Some of the gestures were ceremonial in nature, while others had diplomatic and military significance.

On the ceremonial side, Putin agreed to make a statement to the press at the conclusion of his meeting with Olmert at the Kremlin on Wednesday. The Russian president does not usually make such statements after working meetings, as opposed to state visits. The usual practice after a working meeting is to hold a photo opportunity only.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's decision to meet with Olmert is another gesture, which is aimed at underscoring a third gesture: A Russian directive issued last week to increase supervision over the country's arms exports. The directive is intended to prevent Russian arms from ending up with a third party, as occurred during the war in Lebanon, when Russian antitank missiles meant for Syria were transferred to Hezbollah and used against Israeli soldiers.

Haaretz has learned that the Israel Defense Forces captured 39 such missiles, some of them in their original packaging, along with shipment papers and other documentation, including serial numbers. Israeli officials showed photographs of these missiles and copies of the documentation to their Russian counterparts during meetings in Moscow about a month ago.