(JTA) — President Obama, responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that more nuclear talks amounts to a "freebie" for Iran, emphasized the stringent sanctions facing Iran.
"We’re going to keep on seeing if we make progress," Obama said late Sunday during a news conference in Cartagena, Colombia, where he is attending the Summit of the Americas. "Now the clock is ticking and I’ve been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating partners that we’re not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process. But so far at least we haven’t given away anything.
"The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks."
Talks between Iran and six world powers — the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany — on Iran’s nuclear program resumed Saturday in Ankara, Turkey, after more than a year’s hiatus. The sides agreed to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Netanyahu had said Sunday in Israel that "My initial impression is that Iran has been given a freebie. It’s got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition."
Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes; the West fears that Iran may be enriching uranium in order to produce a nuclear bomb.
Netanyahu has called on the international community to halt Iran’s nuclear production by force if necessary, and has warned that the window in which to prevent Iran’s production of a nuclear bomb is rapidly closing.