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Obama says Netanyahu’s visit to US sours nuclear talks with Iran

US President Barack Obama said on Monday there are differences in opinion between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Iranian nuclear issue, warning him against souring ongoing negotiations with Tehran by visiting Washington next month, several media outlets reported.

“I do not 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 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I have been very clear. Angela agrees with me and 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 are about to be completed and we should play that out,” he said.

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.

“If we cannot get a deal, then we will have to make a set of decisions and, as I have said to Congress, I will be the first one to work with them [Israelis] 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 am looking at what the options are if we do not get a diplomatic resolution.”

Last month, hours after Obama threatened to veto any Iran sanctions bill during his State of the Union address on 20 January, US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to Congress to speak about the “threat” of Iran.

The invitation to address the US Congress was extended without consultation with the White House or the State Department.

Senior Obama administration officials as well as top Democratic lawmakers are planning to boycott the 3 March joint session of Congress where Netanyahu is scheduled to speak.

Meanwhile, a petition is being circulated in Congress by Democratic representatives calling for Netanyahu’s speech to be delayed.

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 programme.

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