Policy & Strategy

Obama, Netanyahu clash over Iran nuclear talks

“The notion that somehow we’ve given something away, or ‘a
freebie,’ would indicate that Iran has gotten something,” Obama said at a press
conference in Colombia on Sunday evening. “In fact, they’ve got some of the
toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few
months if they don’t take advantage of these talks. I hope they do.”

Obama said that the “clock is ticking,” but he still feels
that a diplomatic solution is the way to resolve the conflict with Iran over
its nuclear program.

{mosads}“I’ve been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating
partners that we’re not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling
process,” Obama said. “But so far at least we haven’t given away anything — other
than the opportunity for us to negotiate and see if Iran comes to the table in
good faith.”

On Saturday, Netanyahu said that the talks did not make any
progress toward restricting Iran’s nuclear enrichment and gave Tehran time to
continue its nuclear program unimpeded before the a second round of negotiations begins in
May.

“My initial impression is that Iran has been given a
freebie,” Netanyahu said in Jerusalem while meeting with Sen. Joe Lieberman
(I-Conn.). “It has got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation,
any inhibition.”

The tension between Obama and Netanyahu rose in recent months as Israeli has threatened military action against Iran to stop its
nuclear program. Netanyahu has been skeptical of sanctions and said during a
visit to Washington in March that sanctions have not worked so far, warning
that time was running short before Israel had to act.

Obama has emphasized there’s still time for a diplomatic
solution and has pressed Netanyahu not to attack Iran. Obama has said that all
options for the United States remain on the table, including a military one.

“The best way to resolve this issue is diplomatically, and
my belief that we still have a window in which to resolve this conflict
diplomatically,” Obama said Sunday. “That window is closing, and Iran needs to
take advantage of it. But it is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 group — the five permanent
UN Security Council members plus Germany — restarted in Istanbul on Saturday.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who is heading up the
talks for the P5+1 group, said the negotiations were “constructive,” although
no real policy details were addressed.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Salehi said his government is eager to
find ways to ease the West’s concerns about its nuclear program, according to
the semi-official FARS News Agency. Iran insists that its nuclear program is
for peaceful purposes only, while the United States and its allies suspect Iran
is seeking nuclear weapons.

The two sides have agreed to hold a second round of talks in
Baghdad in May.

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