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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama assures Benjamin Netanyahu of 'strong commitment' to prevent nuclear Iran

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,President,John Kerry,Iran,Israel,PennAve,Middle East,Secretary of State,Meghashyam Mali,Hassan Rouhani,Benjamin Netanyahu,Nuclear Weapons

President Obama on Friday called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to update him on negotiations with Iran and assured him of his “strong commitment” to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The call came after Netanyahu earlier in the day harshly slammed reports of an imminent deal which would see Iran freeze some elements of its nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

The White House on Thursday said that they were weighing the possibility of “limited, targeted and reversible relief” of some sanctions if Iran took steps to limit its nuclear program.

Netanyahu on Friday said such an agreement would be “the deal of the century for Iran,” but a “very, very bad” deal for the international community.

The White House said Obama and Netanyahu discussed “ongoing efforts to advance a peaceful resolution of the international community’s concerns over Iran's nuclear program,” in a statement.

“The President provided the Prime Minister with an update on negotiations in Geneva and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran,” the White House added.

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva, meeting with Iran and other representatives of the P5+1, leading nations which are negotiating with Tehran over its nuclear energy program.

Iran says its program is for peaceful energy purposes, but the U.S. and allies fear they are developing nuclear weapons and have instituted a slew of crippling sanctions which have damaged the Iranian economy.

Newly elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, has pledged to work with the international community to lift some of those sanctions.

That announcement led to a sharp rebuke from Netanyahu, who said he told Kerry during a brief meeting in Tel Aviv on Thursday that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Netanyahu is not the only one expressing concern about a possible deal, with congressional lawmakers also warning the administration to be cautious.

A group of bipartisan senators wrote to Obama urging skepticism of any Iranian claims that they would temper their nuclear pursuits. Lawmakers could also pass measures blocking any sanctions relief offered by the administration.

The White House on Friday said that Obama and Netanyahu “agreed to continue to stay in touch on this issue.”

Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest earlier Friday said that any criticism of the possible deal was "premature."

White House correspondent Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.

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