U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday likened Israeli pressure on him to draw a clear “red line” over Iran's nuclear ambitions to "noise" he tries to ignore, AFP reports.
Interviewed for Sunday's edition of "60 Minutes" on broadcaster CBS, Obama said he understands and agrees with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's insistence that Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons as this would threaten both countries, the world in general, and kick off an arms race.
At the same time, however, he added, “When it comes to our national security decisions – any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out -- any noise that's out there.”
Obama then said, “Now I feel an obligation, not pressure but obligation, to make sure that we're in close consultation with the Israelis—on these issues. Because it affects them deeply. They're one of our closest allies in the region. And we’ve got an Iranian regime that has said horrible things that directly threaten Israel’s existence.”
The comments come after a rise in tensions between Obama and Netanyahu over Iran. Netanyahu has demanded that the U.S. set clear “red lines” that Iran cannot cross in its campaign to obtain nuclear weapons.
Obama rejected the idea of placing “red lines” for Iran during a phone conversation with Netanyahu two weeks ago, and received backing from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said that red lines “are kind of political arguments that are used to try to put people in a corner.”
On Thursday, the United States sternly warned Iran that “time is running out” for its unsupervised nuclear program, in what may have been thinly-veiled support for Netanyahu’s “red line” demands.
"We will not engage in an endless process of negotiations that fail to produce any results. We must therefore remain clear and united in seeking resolution of the international community's concerns regarding Iran's nuclear program. Time is wasting," Ambassador Susan Rice told a United Nations Security Council meeting on nuclear sanctions against Iran.
She added, "Iran's approach remains to deny, to deceive and distract.”
Meanwhile, Obama's contender for the presidency, Republican Mitt Romney, said Obama’s behavior was no way to treat an ally.
The decision not to meet with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, he said, also in an interview with "60 minutes", "is a mistake and sends a message throughout the Middle East that somehow we distance ourselves from our friends and I think the exact opposite approach is what's necessary."
A spokeswoman for Romney's campaign, Andrea Saul, argued that Obama's reference to Israel as "one of our closest allies in the region" was unacceptable.
"This is just the latest evidence of his chronic disregard for the security of our closest ally in the Middle East," Saul said, according to AFP. "Romney strongly believes that Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and ...as president, Governor Romney will restore and protect the close alliance between our nation and the state of Israel."