White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday the Obama administration is “hopeful” it can avoid any dissent among the six world powers who will meet with Iranian leaders next month to discuss the nation’s nuclear program, according to a report. Earnest addressed the situation ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned visit to Washington to warn Congress against the dangers of a lenient approach to Iran’s nuclear efforts.
Earnest said Netanyahu’s planned address will not have a negative impact on the negotiations, Reuters reports. Representatives from the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany and senior Iranian officials will meet in Montreaux, Switzerland, on Thursday in a bid to reach an agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for reduced economic sanctions. The two sides made progress this week on a potential deal that would halt the nuclear program for the next decade but eventually roll back restrictions, according to the Associated Press.
Netanyahu is expected to lobby Congress to push for renewed sanctions against Iran if the nation’s leaders do not agree to end the nuclear program ahead of a March 31 deadline. Iranian leaders have remained adamant the nation has pursued a nuclear program to meet energy demands, while Western and Israeli leaders have expressed concern that Iran plans to develop nuclear weaponry.
Netanyahu expressed disappointment this week with the West’s apparent leniency toward Iran during a speech in Israel. “It appears that they have given up on that commitment and are accepting that Iran will gradually, within a few years, develop capabilities to produce material for many nuclear weapons,” he said. “They might accept this, but I am not willing to accept this. I respect the White House, I respect the president of the United States, but in such a fateful matter that can determine if we exist or not, it is my duty to do everything to prevent this great danger to the state of Israel.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry questioned Netanyahu’s stance Wednesday during a congressional hearing and urged Congress to wait to hear the Israeli leader’s address before forming a conclusion. “He may have a judgment that just may not be correct here,” Kerry said, according to Reuters.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited Netanyahu in January to address Congress without first consulting with the White House. Administration leaders said President Barack Obama will not meet with Netanyahu – who will face an election just two weeks after his trip to Washington – due to “longstanding policy and principal” against hosting world leaders who are up for re-election.
The White House expressed disapproval in January with Netanyahu’s decision to visit with Congress without first consulting with Obama. “The protocol would suggest that the leader of one country would contact the leader of another country when he’s traveling here,” Earnest said at the time.