Secretary of State John Kerry has accused of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu of not being correct on Iran’s nuclear program talks.
Benjamin Netanyahu has criticized the US and others for “giving up” on trying to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.
The Israeli PM “may not be correct”, John Kerry said after attending the latest Iran nuclear talks in Geneva.
Benjamin Netanyahu will address Congress next week, after an invitation by Republican leaders criticized by the White House.
John Kerry was reacting to a speech in which Benjamin Netanyahu had said the US and others were “accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons”.
“I respect the White House and the president of the United States but on such a fateful matter, that can determine whether or not we survive, I must do everything to prevent such a great danger for Israel,” he said in a speech in Israel.
Having just concluded the latest round of nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva, John Kerry told senators President Barack Obama had made it clear the policy was not to let Iran get nuclear weapons and Benjamin Netanyahu’s might therefore not be correct.
The invitation for Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress has angered Democrats.
A spokesman for the White House warned against reducing US-Israeli relations to a party-political issue.
Earlier, US National Security Adviser Susan Rice had gone further and said Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit was “destructive to the fabric of the relationship”.
Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by House Speaker John Boehner in what is seen as a rebuke to President Barack Obama’s Iran policy.
Israel’s prime minister is expected to discuss Iran, as well as Islamist militant groups, in his address.
The current tensions took root over a decade ago when Iran’s nuclear program first came to light.
In 2005, Iran was referred to the UN Security Council, leading to a series of sanctions and UN resolutions requiring Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
The US and other powers – the so-called P5+1 – are negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program. They want to agree a deal by March this year, but Benjamin Netanyahu is opposed to any agreement which might allow Tehran to retain the future capacity to build a nuclear weapon.
Benjamin Netanyahu has turned down an invitation to meet Senate Democrats privately, saying this “could compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his trip.
Several Democratic members of Congress including Vice-President Joe Biden have said they will not attend the speech.
Republican leaders did not consult the Obama administration before inviting Benjamin Netanyahu, which the White House has called a breach of protocol.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on February 25: “The president has said the relationship between the US and Israel can’t just be reduced to a relationship between the Republican party and the Likud party.”
Barack Obama does not plan to meet Benjamin Netanyahu next week. The White House cited the “long-standing practice” of not meeting government leaders close to elections, which Israel will hold in mid-March.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting a tough election against the Labor Party’s Yitzhak Herzog, who has focused on the prime minister’s cooler relations with Barack Obama.
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