White House: Obama Won’t Meet Israeli PM on US Visit

Posted September 11th, 2012 at 4:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli leader visits New York this month to urge that the U.N. take tougher action against Iran's nuclear program.

A White House official told VOA Mr. Obama's decision should not be interpreted as a refusal to meet the Israeli prime minister. Israeli officials earlier in the day said Mr. Netanyahu asked for a meeting with Mr. Obama.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the two leaders will not be in New York at the same time. Mr. Obama is due to arrive at the U.N. General Assembly on September 24 and depart the following day. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to speak to the world body on September 28.

Vietor said the U.S. and Israeli leaders are in “frequent contact.” He said Mr. Netanyahu will meet other senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his visit.

The Obama administration has resisted Israeli calls to set a deadline for Iran to stop work on its nuclear program, which Israel and Western powers suspect is designed to produce atomic weapons. Israel sees a nuclear armed Iran as a threat to its existence, and refuses to rule out military action against Iranian nuclear sites. Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Speaking Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu said international leaders who refuse to impose “red lines” on Iran have no moral right to place a “red light” on Israel. It was one of his toughest public criticisms of the U.S. position on the issue to date.

Obama administration officials repeatedly have said there is still time for diplomacy and economic sanctions to pressure Iran into stopping uranium enrichment. In recent days, they also have said that setting deadlines would not be productive.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu have had an uneasy personal relationship in recent years. But their aides have insisted publicly that cooperation between their governments remains strong.