Israel's elections, which saw Benjamin Netanyahu clinch a third term, will not greatly affect Barack Obama's defence of any deal reached with Iran, the US president said. "I don't think it will have a significant impact," Obama told The Huffington Post in an interview Friday published in full on Saturday.
Iran and six world powers are in negotiations to clinch a landmark deal that would have the country scale back its controversial nuclear programme in return for relief from sanctions. Western powers in London affirmed their "unity of purpose" in Iran nuclear talks Saturday, urging the Islamic Republic to take "difficult decisions."
Netanyahu won re-election this week after a close-fought parliamentary campaign. The Israeli leader opposes any accommodation with Tehran and came to Washington during his election campaign to address US lawmakers, denouncing the agreement under negotiation as a "bad deal."
Obama, however, was cautiously optimistic about the progress of the nuclear talks while acknowledging the bitterness between Iran and Israel.
"Obviously, there's significant skepticism in Israel generally about Iran, and understandably. Iran has made vile comments, anti-Semitic comments, comments about the destruction of Israel. "It is precisely for that reason that even before I became president, I said Iran could not have a nuclear weapon," Obama added.
"What is going to have an effect on whether we get a deal done is, number one, is Iran prepared to show, to prove to the world that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, and can we verify that in an intrusive, consistent way," Obama said.
"Frankly, they have not yet made the kind of concessions that are I think going to be needed for a final deal to get done. But they have moved, and so there's the possibility." The foreign ministers' gathering in London came a day after the latest talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany - ended without a breakthrough.
The complex deal on the table would likely involve Iran reducing its nuclear activities, allowing tight inspections, and limiting development of new nuclear machinery. In exchange, Iran - which denies wanting nuclear weapons - would get relief from the mountain of painful sanctions that have strangled its oil exports and hammered its economy.