Obama will not meet Netanyahu during Washington visit

'We do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections'

Baku. 23 January. REPORT.AZ/ President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington in March, the White House said Thursday.

The White House wants “to avoid the appearance of influencing” Israel’s March 17 legislative elections, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections,” she said.

Netanyahu will address a joint session of Congress two weeks before the elections and also attend the annual AIPAC policy conference, House Speaker John Boehner tweeted Thursday.

Boehner initially invited Netanyahu to address Congress Feb. 11, saying that the invitation is an "unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people.”

Netanyahu is expected to rally U.S. lawmakers to support additional sanctions on Iran, which U.S. President Barack Obama said he would veto should they reach his desk, telling lawmakers to “hold your fire.”

An additional round of sanctions would likely scuttle ongoing negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program and prompt division in the international community over sanctions, Obama has said.

Netanyahu is a vociferous critic of the Obama administration and attempts to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, warning that the Islamic Republic will use an agreement as a shield for covert attempts to gain a nuclear weapon.

“The president has had many conversations with the prime minister on this matter, and I am sure they will continue to be in contact on this and other important matters,” Meehan said.

Negotiators have until March to agree on a political framework with Iran about its nuclear program. The deadline for a comprehensive deal has been twice extended and is expected by the end of June.

Netanyahu has addressed Congress on two previous occasions – once in 1996 and again in 2011.

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