Olmert spells out tough line

Published February 22, 2007

JERUSALEM - Israel's prime minister spoke out Wednesday against Iran, Syria and an emerging Palestinian government, urging the international community to take a firmer stance against Tehran's nuclear ambitions and saying the Jewish state has no interest in talking to those who support violence.

Ehud Olmert also defended Israel's much-criticized war in Lebanon and called Muslim complaints against Israeli construction near a Jerusalem holy site an attempt to stir up hatred.

Speaking at an annual news conference with foreign journalists, Olmert said his government would not do business with a Palestinian unity government that refuses to accept the conditions of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace brokers: recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace deals.

Asked if Israel might react positively to signals from Syria that it's ready to enter peace negotiations, Olmert said that country's support for militants precludes such talks.

Olmert criticized Syria for supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, and defended Israel's performance in last summer's 34-day war against the guerrillas, saying Hezbollah "is weaker, much weaker than they were."