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Reflecting a dramatic, positive shift in the tone of Franco-Israeli ties, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emerged very upbeat from a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Monday, saying that the Israeli and French positions on the Iranian nuclear program were "identical."
"I could not have expected to hear better things than I heard on the Iranian issue," Olmert told reporters at a briefing after his 90-minute talk with Sarkozy.
Olmert's satisfaction with the meeting was not limited to the Iranian issue, as - according to Olmert - Sarkozy said that Israel's security was not a topic for discussion, and that "Israel's establishment is a miracle and may have been the central event of the twentieth century."
Furthermore, Sarkozy also reportedly told Olmert regarding the Palestinian claim to a right of return for Palestinian refugees that the Palestinians cannot demand a state for themselves and, in addition, "part of your country."
Olmert said that in the talks on Iran with the French president, the two did not discuss "an extreme solution like a military strike." Rather, he said, "we focused mainly on how to succeed in our diplomatic moves and not what to do if we fail. There is a large array of possibilities that are not necessarily extreme."
Olmert slammed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who said earlier Monday that the timeline for an Iranian nuclear weapon was three to eight years.
"If ElBaradei believes that an Iranian bomb in three years doesn't distress me, he is wrong. It distresses me greatly. It distresses me but it doesn't seem to distress him. I think it would be very good if ElBaradei made efforts to prevent them from obtaining the bomb."
Olmert and Sarkozy also spoke about the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference expected to take place in Annapolis, Maryland, in November or December.
Sarkozy told Olmert that France wanted Israel to be creative and make "some gestures" in negotiations with the Palestinians.
Sarkozy's spokesman would not detail what gestures France hopes for from Israel.
"It would really be extremely counterproductive that I, the French president's spokesman, talk about the proposals that this side or that could make in the course of this negotiation," said David Martinon.
He said Sarkozy and Olmert discussed the disputed status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and other issues.
At a meeting held later in the day with top French journalists, Olmert was asked whether Jerusalem would be divided, and he answered that this was a "sensitive issue" that had to be dealt with.
He explained that the joint Israeli-Palestinian Authority declaration that is currently being negotiated will recognize the sensitive issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and borders, but not proffer solutions. The solutions, in Olmert's mind, will come at negotiations that will be launched by the Annapolis meeting.
Regarding Israel's attack last month on Syria and whether this was a message to Iran, one French journalist asked the prime minister whether the action was an example, in the words of a Chinese proverb, of killing the chicken to scare the monkey. Olmert answered, "We are not looking for confrontation with Syria, are happy there wasn't one, and hope there won't be one in the future."
After meeting with Sarkozy, the first between the two since Sarkozy was elected earlier this year, Olmert went to a meeting with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, and then to a gathering with members of France's Jewish community.
On Tuesday, Olmert is scheduled to fly to London for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and opposition head David Cameron. He also scheduled a meeting at the last minute in London with visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that is expected to deal with the increasingly tense situation along the Iraqi-Turkish border, Syria and the pending resolution in the US Congress to declare the World War I massacre of Armenians a genocide.
AP contributed to this report.
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