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By Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — In a quick rebuff to President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers to “hold off” on imposing additional sanctions against Iran, House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that he has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the issue.

Breaking with the usual protocol, the Republican speaker appears to have gone around Obama to extend the direct invitation to Netanyahu, informing the White House only after the fact. As lawmakers push forward with sanctions legislation, Obama has warned such a move could upend fragile talks underway to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The Israeli prime minister’s talk to a joint meeting of Congress is set for Feb. 11 – a critical moment in negotiations toward a March deadline to make progress on a nuclear agreement with Iran. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned against easing sanctions against Iran and supported adopting a tougher approach.

It is no secret that Netanyahu and Obama have had a strained relationship, and Boehner’s invitation appears designed to showcase a hawkish stance toward Iran. Many lawmakers worry too many concessions will be made in the talks between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.

“He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran. Two words, ‘Hell no,'” Boehner told House Republicans during a closed session Wednesday, according to a source in the room.

Legislation to impose further sanctions on Iran is gaining ground in Congress, and could be next on the Senate’s agenda in coming weeks. Supporters of the bill promoted by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) believe tougher sanctions are needed to push Iran to halt its nuclear program.

Photo: Speaker Boehner via Flickr

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