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Netanyahu to Press Iranian Nuclear Concerns in US Congress Speech

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures while speaking at the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., March 2, 2015.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to again press his opposition to the ongoing negotiations over Iran's nuclear program as he delivers an address Tuesday to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress.

The Israeli leader has long portrayed a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat to his country and criticized what he says are too many concessions by a group of world powers at the talks.

Ahead of the Congressional address, which arose from an unusual invitation from House Speaker John Boehner instead of the White House, Netanyahu told a pro-Israeli group in Washington that the U.S. and Israel agree on the need to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but not on how to achieve that goal.

He told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that the disagreement with the U.S. comes from different perspectives, because Washington worries about security, while Israel must worry about survival.

Obama agreed about where the two countries differ in an interview with the Reuters news agency at the White House Monday afternoon. He said there is "substantial disagreement" about how to achieve their shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist ... if we've got that, and we've got a way of verifying that, there's no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don't have a nuclear weapon," Obama said.
But he said the rift will not be "permanently destructive" to U.S.-Israeli ties.

Netanyahu said in his Monday speech that he respects President Obama, and that the relationship between Israel and the U.S. remains strong.
He also said as prime minister he has a "moral obligation" to point out the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. He added that disagreement and debate between allies are a normal part of close relationships, and that the U.S. and Israel have overcome previous sharp disagreements.

Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said any deal the United States accepts will make the international community, "especially Israel" safer. Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said the partnership between the U.S. and Israel “transcends politics” and “always will.”

Meanwhile, Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday as the latest round of nuclear talks began. The group that includes Britain, China, France, Russia, the U.S. and Germany is offering Iran relief from damaging economic sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

Iran has long insisted it is not developing nuclear weapons, and instead wants to use nuclear material for things like medical research and generating power.