Iran tops his agenda in Romney meeting: Netanyahu

Netanyahu openly lamented that Iran`s nuclear program remains intact four years since the last election.

Washington: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skillfully skirted US politics on Monday by refusing to endorse either presidential candidate, but openly lamented that Iran`s nuclear program remains intact four years since the last election.

The comment by one of the nation`s closest allies with heavy political influence among the US electorate hinted at a reproach of President Barack Obama, who opposes a near-term military strike on Iran and has focused US policy instead on diplomatic pressure and sanctions.

Iran has defended its nuclear program as peaceful and rebuffed international efforts to dismantle it.

Netanyahu said he will raise the issue with Mitt Romney when he meets with the Republican presidential hopeful on July 28, just as he discussed the matter with Obama as the Democratic candidate in the 2008 election.

The Israeli Prime Minister said he will tell Romney "about Israel`s desire for peace and also about Israel`s concern with the arming of Iran with nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, it`s still with us four years later," Netanyahu told CBS television`s "Face the Nation." Netanyahu later told "Fox News Sunday" that Obama has stood with him in stating unequivocally that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

"But the jury is out on all of us, because the real thing the real question is not stated policy but actual results on the ground," he said.

The US relationship with Israel, and what to do about Iran`s nuclear program, represents one of the starkest contrasts between Obama and Romney. Romney has not explicitly threatened a US military strike on Iran if he is elected. But he has suggested he would take a tougher stance than Obama.

"If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if you elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not have a nuclear weapon," Romney said last year in a Republican primary debate focused on foreign policy.

Obama rejects the criticism that he has been weak in dealing with Iran, and his aides point to what they call unprecedented US-Israeli security cooperation.

But Netanyahu who firmly controls a supermajority in the Israeli parliament and rides high in opinion polls has become a complication for Obama. Their frosty relationship has fuelled the perception that US-Israeli relations have deteriorated a potential problem for Obama with Jewish voters in the swing state of Florida.

Meanwhile, Romney`s relationship with the US-educated Netanyahu dates back decades. Romney and the Israeli leader have a longstanding friendship stemming from their brief overlap in the 1970s at Boston Consulting Group. Both men worked as advisers for the firm early in their careers, before Romney co-founded his own private-equity firm.


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