- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing back against a U.S. newspaper report that claims his government has spied on the closed-door nuclear talks between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers.

President Obama refused to discuss the claims during a Tuesday press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. But the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday night that the spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Mr. Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the high-stakes nuclear negotiations and then help build a case against the potential deal, which is being negotiated by Iran with the U.S., the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and Germany, on behalf of the European Union.

Citing officials briefed on the matter, the newspaper reported that the administration learned of the purported spying when it intercepted Israeli communications and found that they contained information that could’ve only come from the confidential nuclear talks.

But a senior official in Mr. Netanyahu’s office told CNN on Tuesday that “these allegations are utterly false.”

“The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies,” the official said.

Mr. Obama would not address the story.

“As a general rule, I don’t comment on intelligence matters in a big room full of reporters. And I think I’ll continue that tradition,” he said at Tuesday’s press conference.

The Wall Street Journal report maintained that the administration was outraged about the alleged spying by Israel, quoting one senior official as saying: “It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy.”

The Journal report claims Israel shared details of the talks with U.S. lawmakers.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry is headed back into negotiations senior Iranian officials in Switzerland later this week as a self-imposed March 31 deadline nears for a framework agreement in the nuclear talks.

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