US seeks to assuage Israel's fears

The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Monday sought to reassure Jewish leaders unnerved by the Obama administration's negotiations with Iran on that country's nuclear program.

Ambassador Dan Shapiro insisted the U.S. would not let Iran develop a nuclear weapon even as it sought to reach a deal that could remove some sanctions on Iran.

"Obama has made it crystal clear that he will not permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon period, and is prepared to use all elements of our national power to ensure that we are successful," Shapiro told the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly in Jerusalem, according to Agence France-Presse.

"On this crucial issue the U.S. and Israel share an identical agenda," Shapiro added.

Israel's government has criticized the negotiations by the U.S. with Iran. In response, Obama administration officials — including the president himself — have also ramped up efforts to calm the U.S. ally.

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"We are confident that what we are doing will protect Israel more effectively,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday.

At a news conference, Kerry spoke about the failed P5+1 negotiations in Geneva he attended over the weekend with leaders from France, Germany, Russia, Britain, China and Iran. He cleared up a rumor about France stalling the process, reiterating it was Iran that walked away from the deal.

“The time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible,” said Kerry, referring to the Israeli prime minister’s strong disapproval of the talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned even before negotiations continued on Friday that they were dealing with “a very bad deal.”

Later that day, President Obama phoned Netanyahu to express America’s strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 

A delegation of U.S. officials visited Israel on Sunday, according to AFP, to brief Israel on the Geneva discussions.  

On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency reached a separate deal with Iran allowing its inspectors to monitor more of the country's nuclear sites. The agreement could help the P5+1 talks progress once they regroup.

Kerry on Monday returns to the U.S., where the Obama administration faces lawmakers weighing a push for tougher sanctions against Iran.

Kerry will brief the Senate Banking Committee, which has delayed a markup of a new Iran sanctions bill, later this week, a committee aide said.

The aide said Banking Chairman Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) will wait to decide whether to pursue additional sanctions until after the briefing with Kerry.

—This report was updated at 10:18 a.m.