Standoff with Iran is focus of Putin visit to Israel

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JERUSALEM (AP) — The West’s standoff with Iran over its nuclear program was expected to top the agenda on Monday as Russian President Vladimir Putin began a 24-hour visit to Israel.

Mr. Putin arrived in Israel at midday and was taken directly to the coastal city of Netanya for the inauguration of a memorial to Red Army veterans of World War II. From there, he was to proceed to Jerusalem for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that officials here have said will focus on Iran’s nuclear program.

Israel wants Russia to pressure Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program, which Israeli and world leaders believe is designed to produce bombs. Iran says the program is for civilian purposes only.

Russia, in concert with China, has watered down four sets of international sanctions against Iran, but it also has joined world powers in their efforts to pressure Tehran to curb its nuclear ambitions. Russia’s stance on sanctions in the future could help to decide whether Israel attacks Iranian nuclear facilities, since Israel has warned that if Tehran doesn’t back down, a military strike could follow.

Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Putin are also expected to discuss the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian presidential elections, ongoing unrest in Syria and the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

On Tuesday, Mr. Putin heads to the West Bank and Jordan.

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