JERUSALEM  - Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has urged Israel to exercise “patience” on Iran’s nuclear programme and give sanctions a chance to work, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

Gemba, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday, met PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and on Wednesday held talks with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

A statement from spokesman Masaru Sato said Gemba had told Netanyahu that “patience would be necessary to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue, to which Netanyahu responded by saying that Israel does not want war.” In talks with Lieberman, Gemba said Japan shared the international community’s concern over Iran’s nuclear programme and that an “unprecedented level of pressure” was being exerted on Tehran that was beginning to take effect. “It is important to continue to put effective pressure on Iran as the pressure began to show its effect, to some extent,” Gemba told Lieberman. “Regarding a military option against Iran, Foreign Minister Gemba urged his counterpart to be patient” and suggested that the Jewish state “restrain itself,” the statement said.

“Such an option would create new political confusion and tensions in the region as well as giving Iran new excuses to pursue their nuclear programme,” he told Lieberman.

But Lieberman told Gemba the pressure on Iran was not proving successful.

“Iran has not stopped its nuclear programme for even one day, and is accelerating its uranium enrichment,” public radio cited the Israeli minister as telling Gemba.

Israel, widely considered the sole if undeclared nuclear power in the Middle East, believes a nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to the Jewish state and refuses to rule out a pre-emptive strike in a bid to halt it.

The international community has slapped a series of tough sanctions on Iran over widely-held suspicions it is seeking a militarised nuclear capability - a charge which Tehran denies.

But Israel has expressed doubt the sanctions will work.

Gemba also called for a resumption of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that have been on hold since September 2010.

“Gemba explained Japan’s stance on the issue and urged, as an old friend, Israel to resume direct negotiations (and) freeze settlement construction,” the statement said.

He also visited Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the Western Wall, and was expected to travel on to Amman later on Wednesday. He will visit Cairo later in the week, the statement said.