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Netanyahu presses U.S. to seek better deal on Iran

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the United States on Sunday to seek a better deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program and said he would press American lawmakers not give Tehran “a free path to the bomb.”

Netanyahu, in the first of several appearances on U.S. Sunday news programs, said he has spoken with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress – nearly two thirds of House of Representatives members and a similar number in the U.S. Senate – about the Iran nuclear issue.

The Israeli prime minister has been strongly critical of the framework agreement struck on Thursday between world powers and Iran, saying it does not do enough to protect Israel.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is not solely an Israeli issue,” Netanyahu said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“This is a world issue because everyone is going to be threatened by the pre-eminent terrorist state of our time, keeping the infrastructure to produce not one nuclear bomb but many, many nuclear bombs down the line.”

Netanyahu angered the White House and alienated some Democrats when he accepted a Republican invitation to address Congress on March 3, two weeks before the Israeli elections that returned him to office.

Netanyahu denied he was coordinating with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who visited Israel last week, and with other Republicans to block the Iran deal.

The Israeli leader denounced the framework agreement between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, saying of Tehran, “They’re getting a free path to the bomb.”

“There’s still time to get a better deal and apply pressure to Iran to roll back its nuclear program,” he said on CNN.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the agreement reached in Lausanne, Switzerland, a “historic understanding” and told Netanyahu in a telephone call soon afterward that the deal represented progress toward a lasting solution that cuts off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu said he had an hourlong conversation with the U.S. president, with whom he has had strained relations.

Asked on CNN if he trusted Obama, Netanyahu said he was sure the U.S. president was doing what he thought best for his country, but they disagreed on what the best Iran policy should be.

“It’s not a question of personal trust,” Netanyahu said.

Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East.

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