The White House on Tuesday rejected media reports suggesting that President Barack Obama had turned down a request made by Israeli officials on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a meeting between the two leaders during the U.N. General Assembly in New York earlier this month.
"Contrary to previous press reports, there was never any request for a meeting between the Prime Minister and the President in Washington, nor was this request ever denied. They're simply not in the city at the same time," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told reporters on Tuesday. He also stated that Obama was not scheduled to conduct any bilateral meetings at the U.N. General Assembly.
Later in the day, White House said in a statement that Obama held an hour-long telephonic conversation with Netanyahu on Tuesday night, adding that the two leaders "discussed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, and our close co-operation on Iran and other security issues."
"President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward," the statement said.
Earlier on Tuesday, media reports citing unnamed U.S. officials said Obama had rejected Netanyahu's request for a meeting due to differences between the two over Iran. Officials reportedly said the request was denied as Obama's schedule would not allow it, adding that the Israeli Premier was directed to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead.
Earlier, Netanyahuopenly criticized the U.S. and other nations for not taking a tougher stand against Iran's disputed nuclear program, saying: "Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
"The world tells Israel: wait, there's still time. And I say: wait for what? Wait until when?" Netanyahu said addressing a joint news conference with visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in Jerusalem on Tuesday. The Israeli Premier also described Iran as "the greatest threat to world peace."
Notably, Israel wants the West to consider military options for ending Iran's controversial nuclear program, which most nations suspect is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, Tehran argues that it has the right to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Iran is currently reeling under sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over Tehran's refusal to halt uranium enrichment. Analysts believe that Russia and China, both Iranian allies, are unlikely to support further U.N. sanctions against Tehran over the issue.
However, the United States and its allies have imposed separate sanctions on Iran, targeting its oil and banking sectors, after a report released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in November cautioned that Tehran may be planning to develop nuclear weapons.
Israel has said in the past that the current international tactic of imposing sanctions and issuing threats have so far failed to persuade Iran to halt its disputed uranium enrichment work. But Washington continues to oppose any unilateral Israeli military action against Iran over the nuclear issue, wants to allow more time for diplomacy and sanctions to take effect.
by RTT Staff Writer
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