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Biden Tells Israel, 'No Nuclear Weapon For Iran On My Watch'

President Joe Biden assured Israel that he would not tolerate a nuclear Iran as he met with outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday amid growing angst in Tel Aviv over the US administration's effort to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

Biden also told Rivlin that his commitment to Israel is "iron-clad" and he looks forward to meeting with new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett soon.

“My commitment to Israel is ... ironclad,” Biden told Rivlin at the start of their meeting in the Oval Office. He said the two officials would discuss a range of topics, including Iran. “What I can say to you is that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch," Biden said.

The meeting took place just weeks after Bennett took over as Israel's new prime minister, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu. U.S. officials are working on setting up a meeting between Biden and Bennett in the coming weeks.

“He’s going to invite the prime minister of Israel in the very next days in order to find a way to go forward and to exchange ideas," Rivlin said of Biden after their meeting.

Biden also mentioned that he had ordered airstrikes a day earlier targeting facilities the US military says were used by Iran-backed militia groups near the border between Iraq and Syria. The rhetoric seemed to underscore that he would remain tough on malign Iran activity even as he seeks a diplomatic track to stem Tehran's nuclear program.

Biden’s remarks about not allowing Iranian nukes came amid concerns in Israel and Arab capitals about US policy of negotiating to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal because of fears a resumption of the accord may eventually allow Tehran to acquire atomic weapons that would leave them vulnerable to Iranian intimidation or military threat.

A US return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) would also entail the lifting of most sanctions imposed by former president Donald Trump who withdrew from the agreement and imposed heavy sanctions on Tehran, denying the regime crucial oil revenues.

The meeting with Rivlin comes one day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken met in Rome with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist who along with Bennett and six other political allies built a fragile coalition government that put Netanyahu in the opposition.

Aviv Kochavi, chief of staff of Israel Defense Forces, met last week with Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and other senior national security officials. Kochavi reiterated Israel's opposition to efforts by the Biden administration to revive the 2015 accord.

Administration officials, however, have countered in talks with Kochavi and others in the new Israeli government that it’s worth giving diplomacy a shot at stopping Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapons system, even if it's not guaranteed, the official said.

With reporting by the Associated Press and Reuters

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