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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Seeks Better Russia Ties, Denies Help on Iran Sanctions

JERUSALEM -- Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday that Israel should seek closer ties with Russia but denied reports that Israel was trying to help Moscow get U.S. sanctions lifted.

On Sunday, Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked members of a visiting U.S. congressional delegation to push to end U.S. sanctions against Russia over the suspected transfer of weapons technology to Iran.

The sanctions were imposed partly at Israel's request.

Netanyahu's office denied that Israel's support for the sanctions had changed but did not say whether he raised the issue with the American delegation.

Both Israel and the United States have long suspected Russia of providing Iran with nuclear weapons technology, a charge Russia denies. As a result, Washington has barred 10 Russian research centers from doing business with the United States.

Sharon said in remarks broadcast Monday on Israel radio that while he and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed to jointly monitor the alleged flow of technology for a period of six months, "the possibility that Israel would stop the pressure necessary to stop the aid to Iran never arose."

Sharon said Israel should seek closer ties to Russia.

"Russia is returning to the Middle East, and we need to consider the possibility of creating a different relationship from the one that ... led to a wave of wars in the area" from 1955 until the end of the 1970s, Sharon said.

Sharon visited Russia last month and is planning another meeting with Ivanov in the next few weeks, Sharon aide Shaya Segal said.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union waged a series of proxy wars in the Middle East, with the United States backing Israel against Soviet-sponsored Arab states.

Opposition lawmakers criticized Sharon for going soft on nuclear proliferation.