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Obama assures Netanyahu of consultation on Iran going forward

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United States would consult closely with Israel as talks with Iran go forward.

“Consistent with our commitment to consult closely with our Israeli friends, the president told the prime minister that he wants the United States and Israel to begin consultations immediately regarding our efforts to negotiate a comprehensive solution,” said a statement by the White House issued Sunday evening.

The statement detailed a phone conversation between Obama and Netanyahu following the agreement the previous night on an interim deal with Iran on its nuclear program.

“The president underscored that the United States will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions,” it said.

Multiple media reports have said the United States did not brief Israel until two months ago on advances in the secret talks that culminated in the deal struck over the weekend in Geneva between Iran and major powers. The deal provides some sanctions relief in exchange for rollbacks in Iran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu confirmed the call in a statement Monday to the Knesset. The Israeli leader said he and Obama agreed that an Israeli team led by National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen would leave soon for the United States to discuss a permanent agreement with Iran.

Netanyahu said repeatedly over the weekend that the deal is a bad one.

“As we learn more and more details about the agreement that was achieved last night in Geneva, it becomes increasingly clear how bad and dangerous this agreement is to the world, the region and Israel,” he said Sunday evening at an awards ceremony.

Israel and a number of U.S. lawmakers have said that nothing less than a total halt to uranium enrichment and a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program should have triggered any easing of sanctions.

Under the interim agreement, about $7 billion in sanctions out of the $100 billion to $120 billion a year that impacts Iran’s economy will be eased. Also, Iran will lower enrichment to 5 percent, well below weaponization levels, and freeze construction in its nuclear program.

The interim period is supposed to culminate in a final status deal that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program is not moving toward a weapon.

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