Israel Distorting US Position in P5+1 Talks

Israel Distorting US Position in P5+1 Talks Israel Distorting US Position in P5+1 Talks

The United States said Israel is distorting its position in the Iran nuclear talks through selective leaks, intensifying tensions before a controversial US visit by Israel's prime minister.

"We see that there is a continued practice of cherry-picking specific pieces of information and using them out of context to distort the negotiating position of the United States," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

"There's no question that some of the things that the Israelis have said in characterizing our negotiating position have not been accurate," Reuters quoted Earnest as saying.

Earnest was discussing a New York Times report that cited Israeli officials saying the US had limited what it was sharing with them about the talks.

The rare US criticism occurred ahead of a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about Iran before a joint session of Congress at the invitation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner. The address is scheduled for March 3. Boehner's invitation has caused consternation in Israel and the United States, with detractors saying Netanyahu, a hawk on Iran, is working with Republicans to demonstrate their opposition to President Barack Obama's Iran policy.

It is also seen as putting Netanyahu's political links to Republicans ahead of Israel's nation-to-nation ties with the United States, its most important ally, while serving as a pre-election campaign booster for Netanyahu.

Obama, a Democrat who has frosty relations with Netanyahu, has declined to meet the Israeli prime minister on his visit, citing what he said is US protocol not to meet world leaders before national elections. The Israeli election is set for March 17. Boehner announced the invitation last month without first consulting the White House, a move many Democrats considered an insult to Obama.

Democrats have also accused Republicans of breaking protocol by inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting them.

The US and five other major powers are seeking to negotiate an agreement with Iran which would impose constraints on its nuclear program for a specified period of time in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Washington claims the program may be designed to develop nuclear weapons; Iran denies this, saying it is for peaceful purposes.

Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) have reached a crucial stage, with a basic framework agreement due by the end of March.

  Political Tool

The Associated Press also reported that almost two dozen Democrats on Thursday asked Boehner to postpone Netanyahu's address to Congress.

"It appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Boehner.

Netanyahu's speech is controversial because it comes as the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Republicans are pushing tougher sanctions on Tehran to pressure it to make concessions. Iran says sanctions will not compel it to give in to "excessive demands."  

"This appears to be an attempt to promote new sanctions legislation against Iran that could undermine critical negotiations," the Democrats wrote.