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White House Backs Israel, Not ‘Red Lines’

President Barack Obama and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and will maintain close cooperation on the issue, the White House said on Thursday, after the prime minister addressed the United Nations.

But the White House stopped short of saying Obama would give any ground on his resistance to setting a “red line” on Iran’s nuclear program, even after the Israeli leader hammered on the need for such an ultimatum before the U.N. General Assembly.

“As the prime minister said, the United States and Israel share the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “The president made that clear to the world in his UNGA speech this week. We will continue our close consultation and cooperation toward achieving that goal.”

Amid still-simmering tensions between the close allies, U.S. officials stressed Netanyahu’s nonconfrontational tone toward Obama, including an expression of gratitude for the president’s warning to Tehran on Tuesday.

But the officials privately made clear that Washington remains opposed to Netanyahu’s push for Obama to set a red line that Tehran must not cross if it is to avoid military action. Netanyahu said Israel and the United States were discussing a “common goal” on Iran, but did not elaborate.

Obama was on Air Force One, returning from a campaign rally in Virginia at the time of Netanyahu’s U.N. appearance, and a White House aide said the president did not have a chance to watch the speech.

Obama, seeking re-election on Nov. 6, opted not to meet him on his U.S. visit, which was widely seen in Israel as a snub. But the White House said they would speak by phone, probably on Friday.

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