updated 7/21/2008 8:53:55 AM ET 2008-07-21T12:53:55

Visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Monday slammed Iranian calls for Israel destruction and pledged that Britain would remain at the forefront of efforts to block Tehran's efforts to acquire nuclear arms.

Speaking to Israel's parliament in the first-ever address there by a British premier, Brown said Iran must either halt its program or face international isolation.

"It is totally abhorrent for the President of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map of the world," Brown said. "The U.K. will continue to lead - with the U.S. and our EU partners - in our determination to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program."

Israel considers Iran to be its most dangerous enemy. It does not believe Tehran's claims that its nuclear program is peaceful, and takes seriously Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's repeated calls to wipe the Jewish state off the map.

In a speech welcoming Brown to the legislature, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that after eight months of peace talks with the Palestinians, major gaps remained.

"There are still deep disagreements on decisive issues," he said. "But they can be bridged."

Brown arrived Saturday night on a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, his first as Britain's leader. He was due to depart after the speech to parliament.

Criticism of Jewish settlements
On Sunday he met Palestinian leaders in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where he told reporters that Israel must stop construction on Jewish settlements.

Israel and the Palestinians resumed peace talks last November at a U.S.-mentored conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Both sides had originally aspired to reach a final peace deal by the end of the year, but have backed away from that goal because of arguments over settlements and whether the Palestinians are capable of enforcing security in areas they control.

Challenging one of Israel's sacred precepts from the heart of its legislature, Brown said peace should be built on the principle of an independent Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, "with Jerusalem the capital for both."

Israel claims all of the disputed city for its capital and rejects Palestinian claims to all of east Jerusalem for the capital of its future state.

At the same time Brown spoke of the "deep affection for Israel" instilled in him as a child by his father, a Church of Scotland minister who spoke Hebrew and led groups of pilgrims to the Holy Land.

"For the whole of my life I have counted myself as a friend of Israel," he said, pledging to bring his own young children on a visit in their grandfather's footsteps.

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