WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged President Barack Obama to keep tough economic sanctions on Iran in place, even as the U.S. weighs a potential warming of relations and a restart of nuclear negotiations with Tehran’s new government.
“If diplomacy is to work, those pressures must be kept in place,” Netanyahu said during an Oval Office meeting with Obama.
The two leaders met at the White House just days after Obama’s historic phone call with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The call marked the first direct conversation between U.S. and Iranian leaders in more than 30 years.
Obama credited the flurry of U.S. sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy with bringing Rouhani to the negotiating table. While he said it was important to “test diplomacy,” the president also said that Rouhani must back up his more conciliatory words with actions that give the international community confidence that Iran is not seeking to produce a nuclear weapon.
“We enter into these negotiations very clear-eyed,” Obama said, adding that while he preferred a diplomatic solution, all options remain on the table, including military action.