- (Photo: Reuters/Lucas Jackson)
The White House indicated Friday that tensions between the U.S. and Israel over how to prevent Iran from pursuing its nuclear program were easing, saying President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are united on the issue.
"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 Friday.
Obama spoke to Netanyahu on the phone and the Israeli leader also indicated that his country did not plan to attack Iran before the U.S. presidential election in November.
The U.S. president telephoned Netanyahu the day after the Israeli leader used his UN speech to keep up pressure on the United States to set a "red line" for Iran. The premier urged the international community to halt Iran's nuclear program by drawing a red line at the point where it has 90 percent of the enriched uranium needed to build an atomic bomb.
Obama chose not to meet Netanyahu during the latter's U.S. visit.
The conversation between Obama and Netanyahu followed the premier's meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday. Netanyahu and Clinton met for more than an hour in New York. The Associated Press quoted a State Department official as saying that they discussed Iran, regional developments and the peace process.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke about the Israeli premier's UN speech. "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 was quoted as saying at a press conference at the Pentagon.
"This is not about containment; this is about prevention," Panetta added. "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."
Meanwhile, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who accuses Obama of not doing enough to support Israel, also spoke to Netanyahu on Friday, and discussed "a number of topics of mutual interest to the United States and Israel," The Associated Press reported.
The two reiterated that "an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is unacceptable." Romney later 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.