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Israeli PM heads to US for first Obama meeting

world Updated: May 17, 2009 07:19 IST

AFP
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu headed to Washington today for his first meeting with President Barack Obama amid divisions on Middle East peacemaking and Iran's nuclear bid.

The hawkish premier, who wants a "fresh" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will unveil in the White House meeting tomorrow his long-awaited policy for regional peace focused on countering Iran, aides have said.

But tensions have already surfaced between the two leaders as Netanyahu has refused to endorse the creation of an independent Palestinian state, a bedrock principal of the US-backed peace efforts in the region.

The two were also set to discuss Iran's nuclear programme, which both Israel and the US suspect is aimed at developing an atomic bomb, a claim denied by Tehran.

Netanyahu has assigned top priority to halting Iran's nuclear bid. Obama, however, has pledged to act vigorously to end the decades-old Middle East conflict and sees its resolution as a key component in a comprehensive regional policy for resolving the crisis with the Islamic republic.

Obama's decision to break away from his predecessor George W Bush's tough approach to Iran by engaging the Islamist republic in talks to defuse the nuclear standoff has raised concern in Israel.