Rice in Israel to Discuss Iran Talks

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program was a major topic for a visit to Yerushalayim by National Security Adviser Susan Rice Wednesday and Thursday, giving Israel an opportunity to weigh in on world powers’ difficult talks with Tehran before a July 20 date for a deal. Israel has taken a tougher stance than the U.S. and Europe, demanding that Iran be stripped of all disputed nuclear projects.

“Are we going to agree on enrichment? No,” an Israeli government adviser told Reuters.

“We would be happy to see July 20 pass without a deal,” the adviser said. The adviser described Israel’s hard line as sincere but declarative, rather than a prelude to a new Middle East war, and a signal to supporters in Congress to keep up pressure on President Obama not to compromise with Iran.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official said Rice came to Israel “representing the six powers,” adding, “The question of enrichment, how many centrifuges Iran should keep, is the big one. “I’ve not seen or heard anything about what our ‘acceptable’ threshold would be,” the adviser said. “But I do know that less than a year would be unacceptable.”

Rice opened the visit Wednesday by telling Netanyahu that the U.S. “remains convinced that lasting peace can only be secured through direct negotiations that lead to two viable, independent states living side by side in peace and security,” according to a statement released by the White House.