President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday expressed solidarity on the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the White House said, amid signs of easing tensions over their differences on how to confront Tehran.
Obama, who opted not to meet Netanyahu on his U.S. visit, spoke by phone to the Israeli leader, who used his UN speech on Thursday to keep up pressure on Washington to set a "red line" for Tehran. But in a softening of his approach, Netanyahu also signaled that no Israeli attack on Iran was imminent before the November 6 U.S. presidential election.
"The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the White House said in a statement. But it stopped short of saying Obama had given any ground on his resistance to issuing an ultimatum to Tehran as Netanyahu has demanded.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also telephoned Netanyahu later on Friday afternoon. A nuclear-capable Iran and recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa were among the topics they discussed.
The Romney campaign said the Republican presidential nominee and the prime minister discussed "a number of topics of mutual interest to the United States and Israel." They reiterated that "an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is unacceptable."
Romney later told reporters traveling with him that it's unclear whether there is any difference between their so-called "red lines" on when launching military action against Iran would be appropriate.
Romney said he can't completely take the military option off the table
because Iran needs to take the threat seriously, but he said he does not
believe force will ultimately be needed.
Obama and Netanyahu spoke on Friday as part of their regular consultations, and to follow up on Netanyahu's Thursday meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The premier met with Clinton for approximately 75 minutes in New York on Thursday. According to a state department official, the two discussed Iran, regional developments and the peace process.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta commented on Netanyahu's UNGA speech at a press conference at the Pentagon, where Canadian Minister of Defense Peter MacKay also participated.
"I think we've made very clear what the policy of the United States is with regards to Iran, and the president has made it clear, I've made it clear that the United States' position is that we will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," Panetta said.
"This is not about containment; this is about prevention. And so that has been and remains the policy of the United States. And with regards to what Israel will or will not do, I think our hope is that both the United States and Israel and the international community can work together to try to ensure that we achieve the same end, which is that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon, and that hopefully we can try to resolve these issues peacefully as opposed to militarily."
MacKay, when asked about his country's interpretation of the red line, replied that "the more important question is the red line in the minds of the Israelis."
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