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Netanyahu holds talks with US leaders on Iran

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Obama says US reserves 'all options' regarding Iran's nuclear programme, but wants more time to pursue diplomacyBinyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has discussed Iran's nuclear ambitions with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and influential US politicians before wrapping up a visit to the US.

Tuesday's meeting concluded what Netanyahu called "a very good visit" to Washington for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.

"We've had a very good visit in Washington, first in our discussion with the president in the Oval Office... and now culminating in this remarkable display of solidarity here in the congress of the United States," Netanyahu said.

"I go back to Israel feeling that we have great friends in Washington."

The hour-long talks came a day after Netanyahu delivered a stern speech about Israel's right to defend itself against the possible threat of a nuclear-armed Iran at a meeting of the pro-Israel lobby on Monday.

Addressing the AIPAC delegates after earlier holding talks with President Barack Obama, Netanyahu said "Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself".

"We are determined to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons," he said.

"We leave all options on the table and containment is not an option. The Jewish state will not allow those who seek Israel's destruction the means to achieve that goal. A nuclear-armed Iran must be stopped."

'Looming threat'

After meeting Netanyahu on Tuesday, Republican John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, said "the looming threat of a nuclear Iran cannot be ignored.

"Now is the time to stand together and we are here today to tell the prime minister that congress intends to do so".

Later in the day, Obama addressed criticism that his policy on Iran had been too casual, saying the "bluster" coming from rival Republicans in this presidential election year was not helping solve the nuclear issue.

"This is not a game, and there is nothing casual about it," Obama said on the same day that Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, sent an offer to restart diplomatic talks between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany with Iran.

Iran denies that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons and says its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes.

Netanyahu's visit to Washington came amid speculation, in the press and in public statements by Israeli officials, that Israel is planning a strike against nuclear facilities in Iran.

In a statement issued prior to Monday's talks with Netanyahu, Obama largely echoed points he made on Sunday night in his address to AIPAC.

Obama said the US "reserved all options" regarding Iran's nuclear programme, but wanted more time to pursue diplomacy.

"I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically," he said. "We understand the costs of military action."


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