— -- Typically cagey about details of any potential nuclear deal, President Obama spoke Monday about the possibility of Iran agreeing to roll back its nuclear capabilities "for 10 years or longer."
Negotiators from Iran, the U.S., and world powers are working toward a March 31 deadline to come up with a deal that would limit Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, D.C., preparing to deliver a speech to Congress on Tuesday opposing a deal.
“If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist ... [if] we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon," Obama told Reuters White House reporter Jeff Mason.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest denied a report that U.S. negotiators were working toward a 10-year deal with Iran.
Obama said negotiators are working toward ensuring "there’s at least a year between us seeing them try to get a nuclear weapon and them actually being able to obtain one." Iran had come within two to three months of a bomb when negotiations began, according to a report by the Institute for Science and International Security in September 2013.
Reprising previous comments on Netanyahu's planned visit, which the White House has opposed, the president called it a "mistake" that would not ultimately be "permanently destructive" to the U.S./Israeli relationship.
"I think that it is a distraction from what should be our focus. And our focus should be,‘How do we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?’" the president said.