Ties between the United States and Israel showed new signs of strain on Tuesday, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the U.S. for not taking a harder line on Iran. The White House, for its part, denied an Israeli source's claim that President Barack Obama had refused Netanyahu's request for a meeting later this month during the U.N. General Assembly.
"The president arrives in New York for the U.N. on Monday, September 24th, and departs on Tuesday, September 25th," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "The prime minister doesn't arrive in New York until later in the week. They're simply not in the city at the same time.
"But the president and PM are in frequent contact," he added, "and the PM will meet with other senior officials, including Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, during his visit."
An Israeli official earlier told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Netanyahu's aides had asked for a meeting and "the White House has got back to us and said it appears a meeting is not possible. It said that the president's schedule will not permit that".
Netanyahu, who has met Obama on all his U.S. trips since 2009, has been pushing him to adopt a tougher line against Iran.
He argues that setting a clear boundary for Iran's uranium enrichment activities and imposing stronger economic sanctions could deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and mitigate the need for military action.
In comments that appeared to bring the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran closer, Netanyahu had earlier taken Washington to task for rebuffing his call to set a "red line" for Iran's nuclear program, which has already prompted four rounds of U.N. sanctions.
"The world tells Israel 'Wait, there's still time'. And I say, 'Wait for what? Wait until when?'," Netanyahu said Tuesday, speaking in English.
"Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don't have a moral right to place a red light before Israel," he added, addressing a news conference with Bulgaria's prime minister.
The website of Israel's daily newspaper Haaretz called his words "an unprecedented verbal attack on the U.S. government".
Iran makes no secret of its hostility to Israel, widely assumed to be the region's only nuclear-armed power, but says its nuclear program is purely peaceful.
Netanyahu's relations with Obama have been strained over Iran and other issues, such as Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.