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Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran nuke talks

GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Friday to discuss talks in Geneva on Iran's nuclear program, the White House said.

In a statement, the White House said the president called Netanyahu "to discuss Iran and our ongoing efforts to advance a peaceful resolution of the international community's concerns over Iran's nuclear program."

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"The president provided the prime minister with an update on negotiations in Geneva and underscored his strong commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which is the aim of the ongoing negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran," the statement said. "The president and prime minister agreed to continue to stay in touch on this issue."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday for further talks with the P5+1 -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, plus Germany -- which have been seeking an agreement with Iran to restrict its nuclear development program.

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"The P5+1 is doing some very important work right now, and I'm delighted to be here at the invitation of [EU foreign policy chief Catherine] Ashton to try to work with our colleagues to see if we can narrow some differences," Kerry said. "I want to emphasize there are still some very important issues on the table that are unresolved."

Kerry said the group would meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif to discuss nuclear issues.

"I look forward to the meetings that I'll be having very shortly with Lady Cathy Ashton and with my fellow ministers in the P5, and then also I will be meeting with Minister Zarif," Kerry said. "We hope to try to narrow those differences, but I don't think anybody should mistake that there are some important gaps that have to be closed."

Israeli media reported Kerry canceled a planned joint statement with Netanyahu during a stop in Jerusalem this week, to avoid disagreeing with Netanyahu in public. Kerry told reporters he said everything he needed to say during a private, 2-hour meeting with Netanyahu.

Going into his meeting with Kerry, the Israeli prime minister expressed displeasure at an emerging agreement with Iran in Geneva.

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"I understand the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, as well they should be," Netanyahu said. "Iran got the deal of the century and the international community got a bad deal."

He said the agreement does not obligate Israel, which he said would do "everything it needs to defend itself and defend the security of its people."

After the meeting, Netanyahu said he urged Kerry "not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider and get a good deal."

Before Kerry landed in Geneva Friday, Zarif said officials could reach an agreement sometime Friday, CNN reported.

"I believe it is possible to reach an understanding or an agreement before we close these negotiations [Friday] evening," Zarif, who is also Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told CNN.

During an interview with NBC News that aired Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke of a "possibility of a phased agreement" with Iran on nuclear issues. If a deal is reached, the first step would require Iran to halt advances in its nuclear program in return for "very modest relief" from economic sanctions.

But, Obama said, the United States would still keep "core sanctions" in place and would reimpose them if necessary.

Kerry Thursday cautioned Israel the price of failing to reach an accord with Palestinian leaders could lead to violence and a third Palestinian uprising.

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A U.S. Senate aide briefed by the White House, State Department and diplomats in Geneva told British newspaper The Telegraph the proposed deal with Iran had four key points:

-- Iran would stop enriching uranium to the 20 percent level that is close to weapons grade and would turn its existing supply of this material into a harmless oxide.

-- The country would be allowed to enrich uranium to the 3.5 percent purity needed for nuclear power stations, but would have to limit the number of centrifuges used for this purpose. It would not have to remove or disable any centrifuges.

-- Iran would agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak, a city 185 miles southwest of Tehran, during the six-month period. But the country would be allowed to continue developing the facility.

-- Iran would agree not to use advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium up to five times faster than the existing, older model.

The State Department said Kerry's visit to Geneva necessitated postponement of his scheduled visits to Algiers, Algeria and Morocco.

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