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McCain, Lieberman, Graham Visit PA in Ramallah


Former White House candidates Senator John McCain and Joe Lieberman spoke with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Ramallah Tuesday as part of a four-day "fact-finding tour."

They are scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other leaders on Wednesday, followed by a news conference.

Obama, Netanyahu: US-Israel Bond 'Unbreakable'

By VOA News &

U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said their countries' relationship is not strained and that the U.S.-Israel bond is "unbreakable." The two leaders met at the White House Tuesday.

Of the issues discussed between the two leaders, one of the most important was the U.S.-Israeli relationship itself.

After their meeting, Netanyahu told reporters that the two countries' bond remains strong, despite several months of reported tensions between him and Obama. Paraphrasing Mark Twain he said "Reports about the demise of the special U.S.-Israeli relationship are not just premature, they are just flat wrong," he said.

Obama used a phrase echoed by his Israeli counterpart in reaffirming the strength of the relationship. "The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable," Obama said.

This was the first meeting between the two men since March 23, when Netanyahu was said to have received a chilly reception at the White House. That meeting took place shortly after Israel announced, while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the country, that it planned to build new Jewish settlements in mainly Arab East Jerusalem.

The prime minister postponed a scheduled June 1 follow-up visit to Washington after Israel's navy raided a Turkish-sponsored aid flotilla trying to break through an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The blockade has eased in recent weeks to allow some humanitarian aid through. Obama on Tuesday praised the move. "I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu on the progress that has been made in allowing more goods into Gaza. We have seen real progress on the ground. I think it has been acknowledged that it has moved quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated," Obama said.

Obama and Netanyahu discussed the need to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts beyond the current "proximity" talks that U.S. envoy George Mitchell is mediating.

Obama said he and the Israeli leader agree about reviving direct talks that broke off in late-2008. "I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I believe he is willing to take risks for peace. And during our conversation, he once again reaffirmed his willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.

Netanyahu said he is committed to face-to-face talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "I think it is high time to begin direct talks. I think with the help of President Obama, President Abbas and myself should engage in direct talks to reach a political settlement of peace, coupled with security and prosperity."

Obama said he would like to see the direct talks start before the temporary freeze on Israeli settlement-building ends in September. Abbas has refused to negotiate directly with Israel until it stops building settlements on land the Palestinians claim for their own state.

Netanyahu praised his host for putting pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear activities. Obama called the recent United Nations Security Council resolution against Iran the toughest sanctions ever, and referred to recent sanctions passed by the U.S. Congress as "robust." The president said he would never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine its security.

Obama referred to the U.N. sanctions as the toughest ever directed at an Iranian government, and he cited the new unilateral U.S. sanctions he signed into law targeting Iran's refined petroleum needs and energy sector. Obama said he hopes these and similar actions expected in coming months will persuade Iranian leaders to change direction.

"Other countries are following suit, and so we continue to put pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations and to cease the kinds of provocative behavior that has made it a threat to its neighbors and the international community," said Obama.

Describing the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon as the greatest new threat on the horizon, Netanyahu urged other nations to adopt tough sanctions aimed at Iran's energy sector. The Israeli leader responded this way when asked by a reporter whether the new U.N. sanctions would stop Iran's nuclear ambitions:

"The latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy, or create de-legitimization, for Iran's nuclear program, and that is important," said Netanyahu. "I think the sanctions the president signed the other day actually have teeth, they bite. The question is how much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now. But if other nations adopted similar sanctions that would increase the effect."

Addressing reporters in the Oval office, Obama stated that he had reassured Netanyahu that there has been no change in U.S. policy, adding that the United States remains committed to Israel's security.

"Given its size, its history, the region it is in and the threats that are leveled against it, Israel has unique security requirements, it's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that is why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security, and the U.S. will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests."

Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and rejects suggestions that its uranium enrichment is to produce fuel for a nuclear weapon.

The remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu came as Iran, in a letter to the European Union, said it would be prepared to resume talks on its nuclear program in September.

However Obama was asked if he wanted Netanyahu to extend the 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria that is to end in late September. He did not answer, and instead, praised Israel for showing "restraint" on the matter of "settlements," as the Jewish communities in the biblical heartland are often referred to. This restraint, he said, has created more opportunity for direct talks.

Ahmadinejad's Mission: Save America from Obama


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has offered to save the American people from their own president.

In a speech replying to a message by President Barack Obama to Iran's opposition Green movement, Ahmadinejad explained that he was on a mission to "liberate" Americans from Obama's "dictatorship." The speech was translated by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.

The speech followed by one week a decision by the United Nations Security Council to impose another round of increased economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic in a new effort to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear development program.

"It is God-given that all the anti-human plans in the world, and all the crimes and bloodshed are being carried out under U.S. government supervision, but that the demand [to stop them] comes only from our nation…" declared Ahmadinejad.

"Today the most brutal dictatorship is being implemented against the American nation, which is subject to the worst suffocation – the press is not free to depict the crimes of Israel and America, nor can demonstrations in response to these crimes be held freely…

"I hereby announce that from this point forward, one of the Iranian nation's main aspirations will be to deliver the American people from [its] undemocratic and bullying government."

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