President Barack Obama talks on the phone with French President Francois Hollande from aboard Air Force One, Jan. 7, 2015..
(photo credit: OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO / PETE SOUZA)
Israeli assertions that President Barack Obama has conceded to 80 percent of Tehran’s demands in negotiations over its nuclear program are completely inaccurate, a senior US official says.
“That’s complete nonsense,” a senior US official told The Jerusalem Post, responding to a report by Channel 10 on Friday.
In the report, anonymous Israeli officials said the president “has given the Iranians 80 percent of what they want” out of the talks.
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany are negotiating with Iran toward a comprehensive agreement over its nuclear program, hoping to clinch a political framework by the end of March.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been working the phones with Democratic lawmakers in Washington to temper their concerns over the political nature of his speech to a joint session of Congress, scheduled for March 3. The latest deadline for a final settlement is June 30.
The urgency of the matter – and not partisan politics – is what motivated Netanyahu to violate diplomatic protocol and accept the Republican leadership’s invitation to address Congress on the need for more sanctions against Iran, Channel 10 quotes officials in Jerusalem as saying.
The White House says it will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and both the prime minister and the US president say that no deal at the negotiating table is better than a bad one.
The standards for a bad deal remain hotly contested between the Obama and Netanyahu administrations.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, growing frustrated with hard-line resistance to a nuclear deal, accused opponents of effectively “cheering on” the other side in the grueling negotiations with world powers.
Rouhani, faced with rising popular concern over his unfulfilled election pledges to fix the economy, blamed hard-line interference in part for the talks’ halting progress.
“The other side applauds their own, but here in our country, it is not clear what [the critics] are doing. It is as if they are cheering on the rival team,” Rouhani he told a public gathering, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
“And when we ask them what they are going, they answer: ‘We are criticizing and criticism is a good thing... This is not criticism, it is sabotage of national interests and favor for partisan politics,” he said.
“Criticism is not about booing, it is not about slander and character assassination.
Criticism is about showing a better and clearer way so that [we can] reach our goals faster.”
Hard-line sentiment is centered in the security establishment led by the Revolutionary Guards and in the powerful Shi’ite clergy.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ultimate political authority, has so far backed the nuclear talks but has also continued to denounce foreign “enemies” and “the Great Satan” to reassure hard-liners for whom anti-US sentiment has always been integral to the Islamic Revolution.