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The White House said Netanyahu had "never" made a request to meet Obama in Washington/AFP


Obama, Netanyahu speak by phone, ‘united’ on Iran

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The White House said Netanyahu had “never” made a request to meet Obama in Washington/AFP

WASHINGTON, Sep 11 – President Barack Obama called Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday after he provoked a sudden crisis in relations by warning Washington had no moral right to stop Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear program.

In an unusual move, Obama called the Prime Minister in the early hours Israel time, after a day of fast-rising tensions, exacerbated when Israeli officials said Obama had snubbed Netanyahu’s request for talks on US soil.

The spat erupted less than two months before the US presidential election, as Republican nominee and Netanyahu friend Mitt Romney seeks to dent Obama’s foreign policy prestige by accusing him of deserting Israel and appeasing Iran.

A US statement said the call lasted an hour and insisted there was no rift over how to handle Iran, but left the impression Obama was irked at Netanyahu’s rhetoric on a key foreign policy crisis weighing on his re-election hopes.

“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,” it said.

The statement also said that contrary to reports in the Israeli press “there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied.”

An Israeli official told AFP earlier that Netanyahu had asked for talks later this month at the UN General Assembly, but that the White House said the president’s “very tight schedule” as he runs for re-election would not allow it.

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