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John Negroponte, the U.S. National Intelligence director, discussed ways to weaken Iran and reduce its influence in the region during his talks with Israeli officials last week.

Negroponte met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the heads of the intelligence services, and asked them for their assessments of Iran's domestic situation and ideas on how to influence it. He was reportedly particularly interested in ideas on how to use Iran's domestic politics to weaken the regime, and whether it was possible to influence Iran via minorities such as the Azeris, who have ethnic affiliations with other states.

The issue of Iran's nuclear program, in contrast, received less attention during these talks.

Negroponte is on his first visit to the region since taking office in early 2005. The trip included stops in Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Iraq, and its main goal was to form an "axis of cooperation" among those states that fear Iran's growing influence and would like to block it.

Iran will also be a major focus of Olmert's talks with U.S. President George W. Bush during the prime minister's visit to Washington next week. In addition to Negroponte, two other American envoys - David Welch and Elliott Abrams - were in Israel last week to prepare these talks, and tomorrow, an Israeli delegation will fly to Washington to continue the preparations.