U.S. declines to confirm reported tense Netanyahu call

WASHINGTON Fri May 20, 2011 4:00pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, the U.S. State Department said but declined to confirm a report that it was an angry exchange.

The New York Times reported that the telephone conversation was "furious" and that the prime minister "reacted angrily to (U.S. President Barack Obama's) plan to endorse Israel's pre-1967 borders for a future Palestinian state."

The position essentially embraced the Palestinian view that the state they hope to build in the West Bank and Gaza Strip should largely be drawn along the lines that existed before the June 1967 war in which Israel occupied both territories.

"I can confirm, as we do, that she did speak to prime minister Netanyahu before his trip. Obviously we don't get into the substance, but clearly they discussed the president's speech," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on Friday.

"(I'd) just say it was a frank and cordial exchange reflecting their close relationship," Toner added. "I don't want to get into what (the) press accounts may have been. ... They discussed the speech and his (then) upcoming visit."

A senior Israeli official confirmed that the call took place, said he thought the conversation was helpful and that some revisions were made to Obama's speech but declined to provide details or to confirm it was an angry exchange.

The White House denied that any changes were made to those portions of the speech that dealt with the possible borders under an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Will Dunham)