Washington: US President Barack Obama reached out to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and updated him about the ongoing negotiations between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program while underscoring his strong commitment to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Obama`s telephone call to Netanyahu came as the Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced trip to Geneva to hold talks with the Iranian leadership and possibly give a final shape to the agreement on Tehran`s nuclear weapons program.
The White House said "the President provided the Prime Minister with an update on negotiations in Geneva and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran".
"He (Kerry) is participating in those talks in the hopes that he can play an instrumental role in narrowing the differences that currently exist between the P5+1 and the Iranians," the White House Deputy Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters travelling with Obama.
A day earlier Obama told a news channel that the job of the US is to put in place mechanisms where they can verify what Iranians are doing and not doing when it comes to their nuclear program.
"The negotiations taking place are not about easing sanctions. The negotiations taking place are about how Iran begins to meet its international obligations and provides assurances not just to us but to the entire world that they are not..," Obama told the NBC news channel in an interview.
However, the Republicans launched a scathing attack on Obama on the reported deal.
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said instead of toughening sanctions to get meaningful and lasting concessions, the Obama Administration looks to be settling for interim and reversible steps. He has convened a Congressional hearing on November 13.
"A partial freeze of enrichment, as we`re hearing, is not a freeze. As called for in UN Security Council resolutions, all of Iran`s enrichment the key bomb-making technology should be ceased," he said.
Royce said the US run the risk of seriously weakening the sanctions structure painstakingly built-up against Iran over years.
"Once weakened, it will be harder to ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran than it will be for the Iranians to ratchet up their nuclear program," he said.
Congressman Howard P Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House
Armed Services Committee, said if the news reports of the deal are true that the Obama Administration appears to be entertaining a deal that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
"Relieving sanctions without a guarantee that Iran will end its nuclear program is foolish. For some reason, this Administration has yet to meet a red line it won`t brush aside to accommodate our enemies. They must stop chasing the thrill of a deal at the expense of US national security, and the security of our allies," McKeon said.
The White House meanwhile insisted that there is no deal in place yet and that there is no change in its policy that the US would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
"Kerry has traveled to Geneva is to see if he can narrow the differences between the P5+1 -- which is the United States and our negotiating partners -- and the Iranians. So any critique of the deal is premature," Earnest said.
"It`s also important for observers in this process to not lose sight of the fact that the United States and Israel are in complete agreement about the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"The Israelis have expressed their serious concerns because of the threat that Iran having a nuclear weapon would pose to their nation`s security. The nation of Israel is a close ally of the United States, so we obviously are concerned about their security, too," he said.
"But Iran having a nuclear weapon would also have a terribly destabilising impact on the broader Middle East. This is already a very volatile region. The last thing we need to see is a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," the White House official said.
Earnest said the only reason that Iran has come to the negotiating table is because there is a very tough sanctions regime that`s in place against it and a set of multilateral sanctions that have taken a severe toll on its economy.