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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 03:18 GMT 04:18 UK
UK-Israel talks 'convivial'
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, left, shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
The meeting was held after Mr Blair intervened
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has held late-night talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Tel Aviv, the latest stop on his tour to boost Middle East support for a global coalition against terrorism.

The meeting took place despite an earlier row that followed comments made by Mr Straw which offended the Israelis.


I stand very firmly against the terrorism which the Israeli people have suffered. I've never ever dreamt of calling the Israeli people terrorists, I stand fully behind them

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
According to a statement released by Mr Sharon's office, the Israeli prime minister told Mr Straw that in his view, terrorism was "directed against the democratic values of the west".

"There is no good and bad terrorism," Mr Sharon said. "A murder is a murder."

After the meeting, which lasted over an hour, senior UK foreign office sources were quoted by the Press Association as saying that the discussions were "constructive and convivial".

A BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says that the sharing of intelligence information was also on the agenda.

Mid-East tour

Mr Straw's trip to Israel follows a brief visit to Tehran, where he consulted Iranian leaders on the global crisis following the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

On Wednesday he is scheduled to pay a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, after which he will hold meetings with Palestinian officials.

He will then continue to Cairo, where he will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Dispute resolved

The dispute with Israel over Mr Straw's remarks had been resolved in a 15-minute phone call earlier on Tuesday between UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mr Sharon, at the request of the Israeli prime minister.

Mr Straw wrote in a piece published in an Iranian newspaper on Monday that: "One of the factors which helps breed terrorism is the anger which many people in this region feel at events over the years in Palestine."

Israeli officials were angry at the implied blame for the 11 September attacks on the US while the term "Palestine" suggests an element of statehood that Israel does not recognise.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called off a state dinner, but met with Mr Straw in his office instead.

Speaking to reporters upon his arrival in Israel on Tuesday evening, Mr Straw said: "I stand very firmly against the terrorism which the Israeli people have suffered. I've never ever dreamt of calling the Israeli people terrorists, I stand fully behind them."

Favourable climate

During his visit to Tehran, Mr Straw was quick to lay to rest speculation that he was trying to draw Iran in some way into a military coalition against its eastern neighbour.

Rather than coalition building, this was an attempt at consensus forming, creating a favourable regional political climate for action to come.

For Mr Straw, the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit Iran in 22 years, this was the start of a high-level dialogue he hopes will lead to a much deeper relationship with Iran.

"I'm devoting as much time as I can to ensure that the relationship is a much deeper one than it has been in the past," he said.

He added: "What I've started today is a high level dialogue with the Iranians, of a kind that we've not enjoyed for years. I want to see that continued."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Despite the row a late night meeting with the Israeli prime minister has gone ahead"
UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw
speaks upon his arrival in Tel Aviv
Dore Gold of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs
says Jack Straw appeared to blame Israel for hatred of the West
See also:

25 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK fosters Iran relations
24 Sep 01 | Middle East
UK in new Mid-East row
24 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Straw's visit divides Iran
17 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iran condemns attacks on US
19 Sep 01 | Middle East
Middle East: Building the coalition
25 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK seeks to heal Israel rift
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