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Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 13:43 UK

Israel rekindles its African ties

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

Avigdor Liberman at a Press Conference in 1999
Mr Liberman hopes to increase Israeli influence in Africa during his visit

Israel's foreign minister is starting a visit to sub-Saharan Africa for the first time in more than 20 years.

Avigdor Liberman begins his trip in Ethiopia, where he will be accompanied by 20 business people.

Officials say the trip is about building business links with Africa and also countering the influence of Iran on the continent.

Israel hopes closer ties with Africa will help at the UN where African countries often vote in blocks.

Ethiopia has strong links with Israel. During the 1980s and 90s tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel to resettle in what they considered to be their homeland.

Mr Liberman will also visit Uganda which recently turned to Iran for help in exploiting its newly discovered oil.

Kenya, which his spokesman described as 'an African power-broker', is also on Mr Liberman's itinerary.

One area in which Israel could offer assistance is agriculture. Africa struggles to feed itself and faces frequent droughts, yet Israel has a thriving agriculture sector.

The final line of a statement from the Israeli foreign ministry refers to what it calls "the Iranian Issue".

Israel is clearly worried that its foe Iran has been trying to increase its influence in Africa.

Mr Liberman will hope to convince African leaders to share his concern over Iran's nuclear programme.



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