JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and the U.S. took steps on Monday to ease tensions between the two allies over an emerging U.S.-led deal with Iran over its suspect nuclear program.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily over the weekend as news came out that global powers were close to a deal with Iran. At a meeting with the visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Netanyahu said Israel "utterly" rejected the deal, which is expected to curb some of Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from painful economic sanctions.
Netanyahu says that with Iran so weak, international pressure should be increased to ensure the Iranians do not develop nuclear weapons. Netanyahu's tough comments prompted Kerry to say the Israeli leader's criticism was premature, noting that a deal still had not been reached.
Netanyahu took a softer tone in public appearances on Monday. At an appearance with the visiting Belgian foreign minister, Netanyahu said: "Our common goal, that of the U.S., Europe, China and Russia is to prevent Iran from developing a military nuclear capability."
He later said that a break in the world powers' talks with Iran gave time to achieve a "much better deal." Dan Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, played down talk of a crisis in relations, saying the public disagreement reflected the deep ties between the countries.
"The prime minister and the secretary have known each other for 30 years. They are good friends. They speak very openly with one another," he told Channel 10 TV. "And that's a good thing."