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Obama calls Gulf states to allay fears after Iran nuke deal

US president invites leaders of Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and Kuwait to discuss details of framework in spring summit

US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Hill Air Force Base on April 2, 2015 in Utah. (Photo credit: AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Hill Air Force Base on April 2, 2015 in Utah. (Photo credit: AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

US President Barack Obama called leaders of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain Friday to discuss the political framework for an Iranian nuclear deal reached Thursday between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers in Switzerland. The president also invited the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for a spring conference to discuss the deal, the White House said.

The framework comes ahead of a final deal set to be penned by June 30.

“The months ahead will be used to finalize the technical details for a lasting, comprehensive solution that verifiably ensures the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” Obama told King Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain, Amir Sabah al Sabah of Kuwait, Amir Tamim al Thani of Qatar, and Crown Prince Mohammed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates separately in Friday.

The president “reiterated the United States’ enduring commitment to work with partners to address Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region,” according to a statement released by the White House Friday.

The majority-Sunni states in the region, including Saudi Arabia, have watched warily as Iran’ influence in the region has spread and each voiced considerable opposition — similar to Israel’s — to a deal that would not permanently prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomed the deal that would see sanctions on Iran snap back into place should any violation occur.

On Thursday, hours after the political framework was announced, Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been fiercely opposed to a bad deal with Iran. Jerusalem has described the accord as a “dangerous capitulation” to Iran, with Netanyahu charging that the deal threatens Israel’s survival. The PM has argued that it does not have the necessary safeguards and will pave the way to a nuclear Iran.

“The president would never sign onto a deal that he felt was a threat to the state of Israel,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in a briefing to reporters Friday.

In comments Friday, Netanyahu said any final agreement must “include a clear and unambiguous Iranian recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”

“A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel. Just two days ago, Iran said that “the destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable,” and in these fateful days Iran is accelerating the arming of its terror proxies to attack Israel. This deal would legitimize Iran’s nuclear program, bolster Iran’s economy, and increase Iran’s aggression and terror throughout the Middle East and beyond,” Netanyahu told Obama during the call.

“Such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it. It would increase the risks of nuclear proliferation in the region and the risks of a horrific war. The alternative is standing firm and increasing the pressure on Iran until a better deal is achieved,” he added.

Obama, calling from aboard Air Force One, said the deal “represents significant progress towards a lasting, comprehensive solution that cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb and verifiably ensures the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program going forward,” according to a read-out released by the White House.

Barack Obama speaking on the phone from aboard Air Force One on January 7, 2015. (photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)
US President Barack Obama speaking on the phone from aboard Air Force One. (photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Obama said the deal “in no way diminishes our concerns with respect to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and threats towards Israel and emphasized that the United States remains steadfast in our commitment to the security of Israel,” the White House said.

The US president told Netanyahu that he instructed his security team to “increase consultations with the new Israeli government about how we can further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel and remain vigilant in countering Iran’s threats.”

Obama, in his speech following the accord, openly acknowledged that he and Netanyahu “don’t agree” on how to stop Iran, and charged that Netanyahu did not want the US to move “forward to a peaceful resolution,” while telling Netanyahu that the new deal was “the most effective” and “best option.

Netanyahu has not opposed any deal, but has repeatedly demanded a “better” one that dismantles Iran’s military nuclear capabilities.

AP contributed to this report.

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