THE WHITE HOUSE — The White House says President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone Tuesday night after both sides said the two will not meet later this month in New York City, where they will attend the United Nations General Assembly session. A White House statement said the two reaffirmed their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But there will be no face-to-face meeting in New York.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Obama's schedule in New York will not permit a meeting with the Israeli leader.
This followed a report by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that quoted an unidentified Israeli official about an exchange between Netanyahu and the White House. According to the report, Netanyahu said that while he would be in the United States for a little more than two days, he was interested in a meeting, and was willing to come to Washington.
The White House, according to the official, responded that Mr. Obama's schedule will not allow for a meeting.
Vietor said the two leaders are "simply not in the city at the same time." But he added that Netanyahu will meet with other senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to address the United Nations on September 28, and is expected to focus on what he sees as Iran's steady movement toward building a nuclear weapon.
President Obama addresses the General Assembly September 25.
Netanyahu has urged President Obama to go further in specifying so-called "red lines" for Iran's nuclear program that, if crossed, would trigger a U.S. military response. On Tuesday, the Israeli leader said "those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
At the Brookings Institution in Washington, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief Lieutenant General Dan Haloutz said diplomatic pressure and sanctions are the right course to take at present. "The Iranian case is not an Israeli case, it's not an American case, it's not a Saudi Arabian case, it's the Middle East, it's Europe and it is the entire Western community. Free societies should be interested in preventing the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon," he said.
President Obama and officials have stressed repeatedly that they believe "time and space" remains to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. U.S. and Israeli officials have frequently pointed to what they call unprecedented levels of military and intelligence cooperation.
A recent International Atomic Energy Agency report intensified concerns that Israel, the U.S. and key partners have that Iran's uranium enrichment and other efforts aim to move toward building a bomb.