WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed Friday night that the US is willing to hold bilateral talks with Iran, if Tehran were “ready to engage.”

She also said that the US was prepared to take reciprocal confidence-building steps alongside “verifiable” moves by Iran.

Clinton said that in the meantime Washington is consulting with the other world powers in the P5+1 negotiating team – England, France, Germany, China and Russia – on how to proceed.

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“Right now we’re working on the P5+1 and making our willingness known that we’re ready to have a bilateral discussion if they’re ever ready to engage,” Clinton said at the Saban Forum.

“Should Iran finally be ready to engage in serious negotiations, we are ready,” she said. “When Iran is prepared to take confidence-building measures that are verifiable, we are prepared to reciprocate.”

But she warned that “what we will not do is talk indefinitely. The window for negotiation will not stay open forever.”

Asked to list the hardest international challenge she’s worked on as secretary of state, a position she will soon be leaving, she pointed to Iran.

“I think Iran is the hardest of the hard boards, because of the dangers that its behavior already poses and the geometrically greater danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose,” she answered.

Clinton also emphasized that the recent violence in Gaza only underscored the importance of ending Iran’s threat.

“Iranian-made missiles and rockets launched from Gaza at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem only drove home what we already know: America, Israel and the entire international community must prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” she said to applause.

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