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Biden to Israeli PM: US has options if Iran nuclear diplomacy fails

Reuters/Washington
Filed on August 27, 2021
US President Joe Biden and Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shake hands during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. Photo: AFP

Biden and Bennett held their first meeting seeking to reset US-Israeli relations


US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in White House talks on Friday that he was putting "diplomacy first" to try to rein in Iran's nuclear program but if negotiations fail he would be prepared to turn to other unspecified options.

After a one-day delay due to a deadly suicide bombing in Kabul during the chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan, Biden and Bennett held their first meeting seeking to reset US-Israeli relations and narrow differences over how to deal with Iran's nuclear developments.

Tensions complicated relations between Bennett's predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was close to former President Donald Trump, and the last Democratic administration led by Barack Obama with Biden as his vice president.

But the meeting, the first since Biden and Bennett took office this year, was eclipsed by Thursday’s attack outside Kabul airport that killed at least 92 people, including 13 US service members, confronting Biden with the worst crisis of his young presidency.

“The mission there ... is dangerous and now it's come with a significant loss of American personnel, but it's a worthy mission," Biden told reporters after his one-on-one talks with Bennett.

In brief remarks before reporters were ushered out of the Oval Office, both leaders touched on Iran.

“We're putting diplomacy first and we'll see where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we're ready to turn to other options,” Biden added, without offering specifics.

Bennett was expected to press Biden to harden his approach to Iran and back out of negotiations aimed at reviving an international nuclear deal with Tehran that Trump abandoned.

US-Iran negotiations have stalled as Washington awaits the next move by Iran's new hardline president.

"I was happy to hear your clear words that Iran will never be able to acquire a nuclear weapon," Bennett told Biden.

"You emphasised that you'll try the diplomatic route but there's other options if that doesn't work out," he added, also stopping short of identifying the possibilities.

The visit gave Biden an opportunity to demonstrate business as usual with a key partner while grappling with the aftermath of the Afghan attack. His handling of the wrapping-up of the US military presence there after 20 years of war has not only hurt his approval ratings at home but also raised questions about his credibility among both friends and foes abroad.





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