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Obama responds to Netanyahu’s Iran ‘freebie’ comment

JTA

April 16, 2012 | 7:54 am

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos after their meeting at Casa de Huespedes during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena on Apr. 15. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarqu

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos after their meeting at Casa de Huespedes during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena on Apr. 15. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarqu

President Obama responded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that world powers gave Iran a “freebie” by agreeing to hold more talks.

“We’re going to keep on seeing if we make progress. Now, the clocking is ticking and I’ve been very clear to Iran and to our negotiating partners that we’re not going to have these talks just drag out in a stalling process. But so far at least we haven’t given away anything,” Obama said late Sunday during a news conference in Cartagena, Colombia.

“The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks,” Obama added.

Talks between Iran and the six world powers - the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany - on Iran’s nuclear program resumed on April 14 after more than a year’s hiatus. The sides agreed to meet again on May 23 in Baghdad.

“My initial impression is that Iran has been given a freebie. It’s got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition,” Netanyahu said Sunday in Israel.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes; the Western world fears that Iran may be enriching uranium in order to produce a nuclear bomb. Netanyahu has called on the international community to halt Iran’s nuclear production by force if necessary, and has warned that the window in which to prevent Iran’s production of a nuclear bomb is rapidly closing.

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