Iran has provided Syria with more than $1 billion for arms purchases, reflecting Syria's drive to build up its military power in the last year, as well as the strengthening of ties between the two countries.
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 08:13 21/03/2008
Germany and Israel will try to initiate an international conference aimed at stopping Iran's nuclear program, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed during their working meeting in Jerusalem on Monday.
Haaretz has meanwhile learned that Iran has provided Syria with more than $1 billion for arms purchases, reflecting Syria's drive to build up its military power in the last year, as well as the strengthening of ties between the two countries.
Olmert and Merkel discussed steps to continue the international pressure on Iran that has developed following the third round of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Both leaders voiced ideas on increasing the pressure on Iran and enlisting the international community to support the effort.
Israel hopes that states from the moderate Sunni bloc in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and others would take part in the conference.
Olmert said a widely supported international gathering would initiate diplomatic pressure on Iran. A government source said such a conference could discuss practical suggestions for dealing with the nuclear issue, while sending a message to Tehran.
The $1 billion that Iran has recently provided Syria has been used to buy surface-to-surface missiles, rockets, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft systems.
Israel has learned that Syria is buying more missiles than tanks, on the assumption that attacking the Israeli home front would deter Israel on the one hand, and help to determine the war on the other.
A government official said this week that Iran was making huge efforts to upgrade the Syrian army. He said the close relations between Iran and Syria could make it difficult for Syria to sever its strategic alliance with Iran.
The London based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported in July 2007, during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Damascus, that he promised his counterpart Bashar Assad that Iran would finance Russian and North Korean weapon deals for $1 billion. In exchange, Syria reportedly undertook not to proceed with the peace process with Israel.
Intelligence officials presented different opinions on the Syrian-Iranian alliance at the annual intelligence evaluation presented to the cabinet some two weeks ago.
Mossad head Meir Dagan said Syria would be unlikely to break its ties with Iran, even if talks with Israel resumed and it repaired relations with Washington.
Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin disagreed, and said it was possible Syria could sever these ties in exchange for a reversal of American policy and an Israeli agreement to talk about the Golan Heights.
Israel is concerned over Iran's continuing weapon deliveries to Hezbollah via Syria. Recently, it has become known that Iran sent Hezbollah a number of deliveries, including a large amount of explosives.
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