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White House: Obama to host Netanyahu on September 30

18 september 2013, 20:31
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the White House on September 30 to consult President Barack Obama on Iran's nuclear challenge, Syria and Palestinian peace talks, AFP reports.

The Obama administration named the date for the talks, before Netanyahu heads for the United Nations General Assembly, hours after the Israeli leader first announced the visit Tuesday.

"The president will welcome Israeli prime minister Netanyahu to the White House on Monday, September 30," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Before then, Obama will try to inject fresh momentum into US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the UN, Palestinian sources said.

Carney said Obama and Netanyahu would discuss final status talks with the Palestinians, Iran, Syria's civil war and the chemical weapons crisis, as well as developments in the Middle East.

Netanyahu said he was keen to discuss Iran's nuclear program with Obama, ahead of expected new talks between Tehran and world powers.

"I intend to focus on the issue of stopping Iran's nuclear program," a statement from the Israeli leader's office said.

Tehran is locked in a diplomatic stand-off with the West and Israel, who accuse the Islamic Republic of trying to develop and build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the allegations.

Israel will demand, Netanyahu said, that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, remove all enriched uranium from its territory, close its underground nuclear facility in Qom and stop building a plutonium reactor.

"Only a combination of these four steps will constitute an actual stopping of the nuclear program, and until all four of these measures are achieved, the pressure on Iran must be increased and not relaxed, and certainly not eased," Netanyahu said.

Obama and Netanyahu patched over past tensions during the US leader's trip to Israel earlier this year.

But there were new signs Tuesday of a difference of approach on Iran's nuclear program.

Obama said in an interview with the Telemundo Spanish language television network that Iran needed to show that it would not "weaponize nuclear power."

That threshold appears to be someway more advanced than the latest Israeli red line laid out by Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Palestinian sources said Obama and Abbas would discuss peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, which resumed earlier this year after a three year hiatus.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been holding talks in secret since August after marathon efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry brought them back to the table. The last round of direct talks between the two sides collapsed in September 2010.

Abbas won a diplomatic victory less than a year ago when on November 29 the United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade the status of the Palestinian Authority to that of a "non-member observer state" despite US and Israeli objections.

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