WASHINGTON, March 2 (UPI) -- Speaking prior to his address to the U.S. Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he meant no disrespect to President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu, invited by Congress and not by the president, will present a speech Tuesday in which he is expected to object to the United States' negotiations over nuclear weapons with Iran. The invitation, offered by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but not endorsed by Obama, has driven a wedge in U.S.-Israeli relations.
Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Netanyahu sought to defuse tensions in the capital.
"Never has so much been written about a speech that hasn't been given. My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds," Netanyahu said. "I have great respect for both."
He added that the U.S.-Israeli alliance is "stronger than ever," but said, "Israel and the United States agree that Iran should not have nuclear weapons, but we disagree on the best way to prevent Iran from developing those weapons."
Obama has said he and Netanyahu will not meet, suggesting he did not want to be seen influencing the March 17 election in Israel.
The visit has alienated some Democratic members of the U.S. Congress, who feel Netanyahu regards the visit as a campaign stop. Thirty members of Congress announced they would not attend the address.