White House adviser consulted Israeli officials on Iran nuclear deal

United States President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice (above) played host to a series of meetings with Israeli officials last week to try to gain their support for an interim deal with Iran aimed at containing Teheran's nuclear
United States President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice (above) played host to a series of meetings with Israeli officials last week to try to gain their support for an interim deal with Iran aimed at containing Teheran's nuclear programme, said a White House statement on Sunday, Dec 15, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - United States President Barack Obama's national security adviser Susan Rice played host to a series of meetings with Israeli officials last week to try to gain their support for an interim deal with Iran aimed at containing Teheran's nuclear programme.

The meetings, announced in a White House statement on Sunday, arose from talks between Mr Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month as the United States tried to persuade a skeptical Israel to support the Iran deal.

Israel doubts whether Iran will actually give up a nuclear programme that the West believes is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.

The interim deal, achieved in Geneva last month between Iran and major world powers, halts Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for modest sanctions relief. Over the next six months the parties are to attempt to negotiate a comprehensive solution to Iran's nuclear challenge.

Ms Rice, along with her deputy Tony Blinken and senior officials from the departments of State and Treasury, met with Israeli national security adviser Yossi Cohen and other Israeli officials on Thursday and Friday.

"During the meetings, the US team reaffirmed President Obama's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the White House said.

The series of meetings was an initial step toward fulfilling a promise Mr Obama made to Mr Netanyahu in their Nov 24 phone call that the United States would consult regarding the effort to forge a comprehensive solution with Iran.

Mr Obama has been arguing to Israel and its supporters and to members of the US Senate that it is important to use the next six months to test whether Iran is serious about reaching a comprehensive deal.

Some members of the Senate are eager to slap new economic sanctions on Iran, a prospect the White House argues would upset delicate diplomacy with Tehran.

"If at the end of six months it turns out that we can't make a deal, we're no worse off, and in fact we have greater leverage with the international community to continue to apply sanctions and even strengthen them," Mr Obama told the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy on Dec 7.