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Obama, Netanyahu 'united' on Iran after Israel’s sharp criticism

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem August 12, 2012. Iran has stepped up work to develop a nuclear warhead, Israeli newspapers said on Sunday, citing officials in Netanyahu's government and leaked U.S. intelligence.

Abir Sultan/Pool/REUTERS

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone late Tuesday, and are "united" in efforts to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, the White House said.

After saying earlier that Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu could not meet in New York later this month due to a scheduling conflict, the White House said the Israeli leader had never asked to see Mr. Obama in the U.S. capital.

"Contrary to reports in the press, there was never a request for Prime Minister Netanyahu to meet with President Obama in Washington, nor was a request for a meeting ever denied," the statement said.

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The two leaders, who spoke for an hour, "discussed the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program, and our close cooperation on Iran and other security issues," it said.

"President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reaffirmed that they are united in their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and agreed to continue their close consultations going forward."

Earlier, the key relationship took a hit when Mr. Netanyahu said Washington had no moral right to stop Israel striking Iran, publicly criticizing the U.S. refusal to set "red lines" for action on Tehran's suspect nuclear program.

"The world tells Israel: Wait, there's still time. And I say: wait for what? Wait until when?" Mr. Netanyahu said in English on Tuesday, in comments clearly aimed directly at the White House.

"Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," he said.

Deepening tensions were also revealed in news that Mr. Obama had declined to rearrange his busy campaign schedule to meet Mr.Netanyahu in New York later this month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz had reported that Mr. Netanyahu was even ready to travel to Washington to meet Mr. Obama but the White House rejected his request.

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