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Spotlight: Netanyahu downplays rift with Obama on Iran's nuclear program

English.news.cn   2015-03-03 14:07:46

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday downplayed his difference with the White House on Iran's nuclear program, describing their dispute as "a family squabble."

The United States and Israel disagree on how to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but their alliance is "stronger than ever," Netanyahu said here at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The potential deal on Iran's nuclear program that world powers and Iran are negotiating "could threaten the survival of Israel," he said, adding that he has a "moral obligation" to speak up in the face of the dangers to the Israelis.

Encapsulating the difference between the United States and Israel over Tehran's nuclear program, Netanyahu said, "American leaders worry about the security of their country. Israeli leaders worry about the survival of their country."

But the Israeli leader emphasized the strong relations between the United States and Israel in an effort to play down the rift between the long-time allies.

Reports of the demise of the Israeli-U.S. relations are not only premature, "they are just wrong," Netanyahu said. "Our alliance is stronger than ever."

Netanyahu, who is to speak before the U.S. Congress at the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Tuesday, is expected to reiterate his objections to the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

Critics have slammed the speech as an intervention into U.S. politics and inappropriate given that Netanyahu is in the midst of a reelection campaign. Parliamentary polls are set for March 17.

The speech was also frowned upon by the White House, as it goes against its official stand and was coordinated behind the Obama administration's back.

Several leading members of America's political establishment have announced they plan to skip the address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

And the White House has said President Barack Obama would not meet with Netanyahu, citing that the visit comes in too close proximity to Israeli elections.

Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, has blasted Netanyahu's plans to address Congress as "destructive" to the fabric of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

"My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds," Netanyahu said Monday amid the rising tension between the two countries. "I have great respect for both."

Addressing the same gathering before Netanyahu, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power stressed that the U.S.-Israeli relations can not be "tarnished or broken", saying that "Israel's security and the U.S.-Israel partnership transcends politics."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Switzerland for talks on Ukraine and Iran's nuclear issues, warned on Monday against actions that may undermine the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

"We are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days," he told reporters.

With Kerry opening a new round of talks with Iran, Rice on Monday called on Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran, warning that such a move could derail ongoing talks on Tehran's nuclear program.

Additional sanctions enacted during the negotiation would blow up the talks, divide the international community and cause the United States to be blamed for the failure to reach a deal, Rice said at the annual policy conference of the AIPAC.

"Congress has played a hugely important role in helping to build our sanctions on Iran, but they shouldn't play the spoiler now," Rice said.

Related:

Kerry urges Iran to "make difficult decisions" for nuclear deal

GENEVA, March 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urges Iran to take more decisive steps to meet the requirements for reaching a final deal over its nuclear program.

"Unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that are required, there won't be a deal," he told a press conference, right after addressing the High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council here in Geneva.Full Story

Tehran should answer questions to clarify nuclear plans: IAEA chief

VIENNA, March 2 (Xinhua) -- Iran should answer questions about its alleged nuclear weapons program from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) instead of trying to verify them, the agency's chief said Monday.

Yukiya Amano, head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, said the IAEA is ready to accelerate clarification of outstanding issues over Iran's nuclear plans.Full Story

Editor: Yamei Wang
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