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White House surprised as Netanyahu cancels U.S. visit

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   March 8, 2016 at 7:49 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 8 (UPI) -- The White House signaled its surprise that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled an upcoming meeting with President Barack Obama.

Obama and Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship, largely because of disagreement over the accord with Iran reining in its nuclear program. They were to participate in their first face-to-face meeting since November, on March 18 in Washington, D.C.

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Netanyahu was expected to be in the United States to attend the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Monday the White House announced the one-on-one was canceled.

Netanyahu will address the conference by satellite, a source told CNN, saying he chose not to visit the United States during the bitter 2016 presidential election campaign.

The change in plans clearly caught the White House off guard.

"We were looking forward to hosting the bilateral meeting, and we were surprised to first learn via media reports that the prime minister, rather than accept our invitation, opted to cancel his visit. Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister's schedule are false," White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

Netanyahu will meet instead with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday in Jerusalem during Biden's trip to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. Officials said Biden will not bring any new Middle East peace initiatives.

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