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 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.
Obama had hoped to keep his role in the Summit of the Americas focused on the economy and the prospect of the region's rapid economic rise as a growth opportunity for American businesses.
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