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Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's dramatic announcement that the US was willing to hold direct talks with Iran if it stopped enriching uranium was not a complete surprise in Jerusalem, where the possibility of such a move has been discussed at various levels for some time.
The idea was reportedly discussed during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent trip to Washington, and even beforehand at the preparatory talks that led up to that meeting.
US President George W. Bush phoned Olmert Wednesday evening after the announcement to discuss the matter, and - according to the Prime Minister's Office - the two leaders agreed to stay in contact on the issue.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni before the press conference to brief her on what the US intended to do.
Livni issued a statement after the announcement saying that Israel and the US were "in agreement" regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, and that this was clear and apparent during Olmert's recent visit to the US.
Livni said that Israel appreciated what the US was doing on this matter, and said the US "continues to lead the international coalition and is taking all the necessary steps to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities."
"Israel supports the US efforts in this matter," she said.
One source with close ties to the State Department said earlier this week it was just a matter of time before the US started to negotiate with Iran.
The source said that although he could not say where the negotiations might lead, they were a necessary precondition to any possible future use of force. Bush had to show his European allies, as well as his domestic audience, that he was willing to exhaust all diplomatic efforts to try and solve the problem, before gaining support for sanctions or possibly resorting to military measures.
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