After Netanyahu Meeting, Obama Vows Iran Talks Won't Be an 'Excuse for Inaction'

By JTA

Published May 18, 2009.
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President Obama said he would reassess his policies of engagement with Iran by the end of this year.

Obama, who appeared before reporters Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their first White House meeting, also said that the United States was considering all options in dealing with Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

“I assured the prime minister that we are not foreclosing a range of steps, including sanctions, in ensuring that Iran understands that we are serious,” Obama said, following the 2 1/2-hour meeting, which also included close advisers to both leaders.

Netanyahu arrived in Washington hoping to find out how long the Obama administration was giving the Iranians to respond substantively to the president’s offer of outreach.

After the meeting, Obama rejected “artificial deadlines” for engagement with Iran, but added, “We’re not going to have to talk forever, we’re not going to have a situation where talks become an excuse for inaction.”

“We will probably be engaged and have an assessment by the end of the year.”

Obama reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution, while Netanyahu resolutely refused to commit to Palestinian statehood. Instead, Netanyanu again said Israel was serious about resuming the full range of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Obama said that both sides must abide by previous commitments, calling on the Palestinians to rein in violence against Israel, but also urging Netanyahu to stop settlement expansion and allow humanitarian goods into the Gaza Strip.

Both leaders said that Iranian and Israeli-Palestinian issues have a causal effect on one another, but rejected any formal linkage between the issues.


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