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Netanyahu tells AIPAC alliance with US 'stronger'

Despite public bickering between US and Israeli officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the alliance between the countries "is stronger than ever." His remarks come a day before he addresses the US Congress.

Before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday, Netanyahu reaffirmed the nations' "friendship" and said the

US could not end sanctions

on Iran. Heartily welcomed by AIPAC as he spoke of an Iranian regime "devouring country after country in the Middle East" and thanked the United States for the weaponry it had provided for Israel's war in the Gaza Strip last summer, the prime minister has ruffled

feathers in the Obama administration

by accepting the invitation to address the legislature without informing the president.

In his message of reassurance, the prime minister attempted to paraphrase Mark Twain: "You are here to tell the world that reports of the demise of the US relationship with Israel is not only premature," he said to the AIPAC delegates, "but it is wrong." He added that: "We pray and hope and aspire for that same better world because the values that unite us are much stronger than the differences that divide us."

Netanyahu's comments came after US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that publicizing details of nuclear negotiations would endanger a deal to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons. Kerry said he

had become "concerned by reports"

that someone could reveal "selective details" of the talks in the coming days, perhaps alluding to Netanyahu's planned address to the joint session of the US Congress.

At separate points, Netanyahu said that "Israel is a beacon of humanity, light and hope" in a region descending "into medieval barbarism."

'Partnership transcends politics'

Netanyahu has shrugged off criticism from the Obama administration, Israel's political opposition and media over his addressing Congress on an

invitation from the Republican Party

, without conferring with the president,

a Democrat

. The prime minister will give the speech just two weeks ahead of elections for the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, which will determine whether he gets to keep his job.

"My speech is not intended to show any disrespect to President Obama or the esteemed office that he holds," Netanyahu said. "I have great respect for both. I deeply appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel." He couldn't go into detail, he said: Much of that fell within "the realm of the confidences that are kept between an American president and an Israeli prime minister."

Before Netanyahu spoke, the US ambassador to the UN told AIPAC that the tensions between the administrations did not mean strife between the countries. "We believe firmly that Israel's security and the US-Israel partnership transcends politics," Samantha Power said, "and it always will."

mkg/jil (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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