US President Barack Obama says he has sharp differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iranian nuclear issue, warning him against souring the ongoing negotiations with Tehran by visiting Washington, DC next month. “I don’t want to be coy. The [Israeli] Prime Minister and I have a very real difference around Iran’s sanctions,” Obama said at a joint press conference in the White House on Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I have been very clear — Angela agrees with me, and [British Prime Minister] David Cameron agrees with me, and the others who are a member of the negotiations agree that it does not make sense to sour the negotiations a month or two before they’re about to be completed and we should play that out. If, in fact, we can get a deal, then we should embrace that,” Obama said in response to a question.
“If we can’t get a deal, then we’ll have to make a set of decisions and, as I’ve said to Congress, I’ll be the first one to work with them to apply even stronger measures against Iran,” he added. Obama said the deal with Iran over its nuclear issue is possible, but “as the president of the United States, I’m looking at what the options are if we don’t get a diplomatic resolution.” Earlier in the day, Netanyahu said he would go ahead with his planned address to Congress to “prevent dangerous agreement” with Iran.
“I am determined to address Congress, that is why I decided to go to Washington and present Israel’s position,” Netanyahu told members of his Likud party. Iran and the P5+1 states – the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany – are in talks to narrow their differences and pave the way for a final, long-term accord aimed at putting an end to the 12-year-old dispute over Tehran’s nuclear energy program. The scale of Iran’s uranium enrichment and the timetable for the lifting of anti-Iran sanctions are seen as major sticking points in the talks. The Republican-dominated Congress is pushing a new round of sanctions on Iran, which could be part of its agenda in the coming weeks.
Obama has vowed to veto the final Kirk-Menendez bill if it is put on his desk after passing both houses of Congress. The illegal sanctions on Iran have been imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Tehran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear program. Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production. Last month, hours after Obama threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill during his State of the Union address on January 20, US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to Congress to speak about the “threat” of Iran. More