Netanyahu to Close US Trip With Clinton, Congress

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 4:30 am (UTC-5)
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Tuesday with U.S. lawmakers and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as he closes a visit to Washington dominated by discussion of how to respond to Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Monday at the White House, President Barack Obama urged Mr. Netanyahu to give sanctions more time to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

But the Israel leader emphasized his country's right to defend itself with military action. Mr. Netanyahu said later in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he appreciates tougher sanctions, but Iran's nuclear program continues to progress.

“We have waited for diplomacy to work, we have waited for sanctions to work, none of us can afford to wait much longer. As Prime Minister of Israel I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”

Tehran denies pursuing an atomic weapons program and says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.

Mr. Obama said Monday there is “still a window” to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute diplomatically – an outcome he said both he and Mr. Netanyahu prefer. But the president reiterated his position that military options are on the table for stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the U.S. alliance with Israel and said both nations face a common enemy in Iran. Although Mr. Obama again said Washington rejects a policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran, U.S. and Israeli officials have given differing views about what might trigger military action against Iran's nuclear sites.

The U.S. says it may act if Iran makes a decision to assemble a nuclear bomb, while Israeli officials have said military action may be needed sooner, to prevent Iran from putting the pieces of a bomb beyond the reach of an attack. The two leaders remain far apart on any explicit nuclear “red lines” that Tehran must not be allowed to cross.

While many Western leaders suspect Iran is secretly working to achieve the ability to produce nuclear weapons through its uranium enrichment activities, U.S. officials continue to believe there is no hard evidence Iran has decided to build an atomic bomb.