ISRAEL is holding 'secret' talks with some Arab states that do not recognise it, looking to establish diplomatic ties based on a common fear of Iran, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said yesterday.

Amongst the countries he was in contact with were Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Lieberman told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth - the first such disclosure by a senior Israeli official. The two nations swiftly denied the existence of any talks with Israel. Both these states, along with most other Arab nations, have traditionally been highly hostile towards Israel, which has only signed peace deals with two neighbours - Egypt and Jordan.

However, anti-Israeli sentiment was being superseded by a growing concern over Iran's nuclear programme, Tehran's regional allies, and the menace of Islamist militancy, Lieberman said.

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"For the first time there is an understanding there that the real threat is not Israel, the Jews or Zionism. It is Iran, global jihad, [Lebanese Shi'ite guerrilla group] Hezbollah and al Qaeda," the foreign minister said.