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    Obama Declines to Meet Netanyahu Ahead of Israeli Elections

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    White House National Security Council Spokesperson said that US President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington, DC in early March.

     

    WASHINGTON, January 22 (Sputnik) — US President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington, DC in early March due to the proximity of the visit to Israeli elections, White House National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan told Sputnik on Thursday.

    “As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country. Accordingly, the president [Obama] will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the US Congress,” Meehan said. Israeli elections are scheduled for March 17.

    On Wednesday US House of Representatives Leader John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress on February 11 about Iran and the threat posed by jihadist terrorists. The White House described Boehner’s invitation and Israeli acceptance as a departure from protocol. Boehner said Thursday the Israeli prime minister had accepted the invitation, but Israel requested to push back the date to March 3 in order to align with a meeting in Washington, DC of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group.

    Netanyahu’s address to Congress will come as international powers are trying to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program before a July deadline. Congress is pushing for tougher sanctions on Iran, which the Obama administration has said would undermine negotiations with Iran at a critical juncture. Obama has said he would veto any additional sanctions passed by Congress.

    “The president [Obama] has been clear about his opposition to Congress passing new legislation on Iran that could undermine our negotiations and divide the international community,” Meehan said. “The President has had many conversations with the Prime Minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact on this and other important matters.”

    The White House on Wednesday said Republicans appeared to want to add pressure to gain support for additional sanctions.

     

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