US President Barack Obama will not be meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Washington in March, the White House said on Thursday (22 January).

White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said: "The president will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the proximity to the Israeli election, which is just two weeks after his planned address to the U.S. Congress."

Meehan said that according to "long standing practice and principle" US presidents do not meet heads of state close to their elections.

Netanyahu has been invited by Republicans to address a joint session of Congress to be held on 3 March.

During his speech to the Congress, Netanyahu is expected to push for additional sanctions on Iran, a move Obama has been pressing the Republicans to hold off on till nuclear negotiations are ongoing with the Islamic republic.

On the topic of nuclear negotiations with Iran, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on Thursday (22 January): "We ought to give some time and space for that to work."

According to a senior Republican aide speaking on condition of anonymity, the Republican National Committee (GOP) leaders reached out to the Israelis without consulting with the White House or the State Department, reported AP News.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Netanyahu's invitation to address Congress inappropriate.

"If that's the purpose of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit two weeks before his own election, right in the midst of our negotiations, I just don't think it's appropriate and helpful," said Pelosi.