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Netanyahu-Obama Summit to Focus on Iran

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ottawa, Canada, March 2, 2012.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ottawa, Canada, March 2, 2012.
Robert Berger

The leaders of Israel and the United States will hold a crucial summit on Monday in Washington to discuss growing tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama believe that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, but gaps are wide over how to stop it. Israel has threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities; the U.S. wants to give tightening international sanctions on Iran more time to work.

Netanyahu says time is running out, and speaking in Canada, he set out tough conditions ahead of his visit to the White House.

“I think the demands on Iran should be clear: dismantle the underground nuclear facility in Qom, stop [uranium] enrichment inside Iran and get all the enriched material out of Iran,” he said.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but its leaders have said Israel should be "wiped off the map.” Therefore, Israel sees Iran’s alleged quest for the atom bomb as a threat to its existence.

Israeli officials say Netanyahu will tell President Obama that Iran is moving quickly toward nuclear capability, and soon, any Israeli air strikes could be ineffective. Obama has warned that an Israeli attack would be premature, though he says the military option remains on the table as a last resort.

But Israel is not convinced. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says the international community’s failure to stop the bloodshed in neighboring Syria shows that the world cannot guarantee Israel’s security.

Interviewed on Israel Radio, Lieberman described the United States as a superpower and the best friend of Israel; but he said Israel is an independent state that will make its own decisions.

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