CARTAGENA, Colombia – Exposing a rift with Israel, President Barack Obama on Sunday insisted that the United States has not “given anything away” in new talks with Iran as he defended his continued push for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Obama said he refused to let the talks turn into a “stalling process,” but believed there was still time for diplomacy.
His assessment, delivered at the close of a Latin American summit in Colombia, came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday had said the U.S. and world powers gave Tehran a “freebie” by agreeing to hold more talks next month.
Obama shot back: “The notion that somehow we’ve given something away or a ‘freebie’ would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they’ve got some of the toughest sanctions that they’re going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don’t take advantage of these talks.”
Still, in a news conference here, Obama warned to Iran, “The clock’s ticking.”
Winding down his three-day trip in the port city of Cartagena, Obama also sought to offer hope for a fresh start with Cuba, saying the U.S. would welcome the communist-run island’s transition to democracy. There could be an opportunity for such a shift in the coming years, Obama said.
Standing alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Obama also proclaimed a free-trade agreement between their countries as a win all-around, even as labor leaders back home denounced it. Obama announced that the trade pact can be fully enforced next month, now that Colombia has enacted a series of protections for workers and labor unions.