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1:06am UK, Monday March 05, 2012
Barack Obama has warned against “loose talk” of a war with Iran and insisted sanctions must be given time to prevent the country pursuing nuclear weapons.
Speaking the day before a key meeting with the Jewish state’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the US president said he “had Israel’s back”.
He is expected to use the meeting to urge Mr Netanyahu to avoid a premature strike on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.
Perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
And Mr Obama told a crowd of 13,000 at powerful pro-Israel lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference: “I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy – backed by pressure – to succeed.”
Obama said the “bluster” about a military strike was counterproductive because it has been driving up global oil prices, boosting demand for Iranian oil and helping to offset the impact of sanctions on its economy.
He said: “I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues, the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war.”
And Mr Obama was keen to head off the kind of criticism he has faced from Republicans in the run-up to this year’s presidential election that he has not been supportive enough of Israel.
Iran has come under increasing pressure over its nuclear ambitions
“There should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back,” he said.
Analysts say that with the election looming in November, Mr Obama would be forced to give at least tacit support if Israel were to take military action against Iran.
Speaking in Canada, Mr Netanyahu welcomed Mr Obama’s speech.
“I very much appreciated the fact that President Obama reiterated his position that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table,” he said.
“Perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”