Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 28, 2015
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 28, 2015 © Marc Sellem - Pool/AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prays at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, on February 28, 2015
AFP
Last updated: March 4, 2015

Israel PM Netanyahu takes off on 'historic' US mission

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ramps up his mission to foil an emerging White House-backed nuclear deal with Iran with a speech on Monday to the powerful pro-Israel AIPAC lobby.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday brushed aside criticism from US President Barack Obama of his speech to Congress, in which he warned Washington was paving the way to a nuclear-armed Iran.

The White House was infuriated by Netanyahu's address Tuesday to a joint session of the US Congress, where he laid out Israeli concerns at an emerging world deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.

Obama, who refused to meet Netanyahu during his 48-hour visit to Washington, dismissed the speech as containing "nothing new," saying the Israeli leader "did not offer any viable alternatives".

Netanyahu, however, insisted on Wednesday that he had "presented a practical alternative, which would impose tougher restrictions on Iran's nuclear program, extending Iran's breakout time by years".

"I also called on the P5+1 (world powers negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran) to insist on a deal that would link the lifting of those restrictions to Iran's ceasing its sponsorship of terrorism around the world, its aggression against its neighbours and its calls for Israel's destruction," he said on his return to Israel.

The Israeli leader also cited "encouraging responses from both Democrats and Republicans" to his address.

"They understood that the current proposal would lead to a bad deal and that the alternative is a better deal," said Netanyahu.

Israel believes Iran and world powers are likely to reach a deal that eases international sanctions on Tehran without applying sufficiently stringent safeguards to stop it developing nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu's address came just four weeks before a March 31 target for a framework deal, and two weeks before a March 17 general election in Israel in which Netanyahu is hoping to win a third consecutive term in office.

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