Obama vows to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear bomb

US president speaking in Jerusalem on first day of Middle East trip

US president Barack Obama in a news conference with Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem yesterday. It was clear both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Obama went out of their way to be super-friendly and forget tense meetings they have had in the past.

US president Barack Obama in a news conference with Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem yesterday. It was clear both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Obama went out of their way to be super-friendly and forget tense meetings they have had in the past.

 

US president Barack Obama has vowed to do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Speaking in Jerusalem after talks with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the first day of his Middle East trip, Mr Obama said there was still time for diplomacy, but Iranian leaders needed to accept they would have to meet the demands of the international community, and that the world would continue pressuring them to do so.

“Our aim is not containment. The US will do what is necessary to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Mr Netanyahu said he appreciated US efforts, but he cautioned that sanctions were not working. “Diplomacy and sanctions are not working. Israel cannot cede the right to defend ourselves to others.”

On reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Mr Obama said US teams were working with countries in the region as well as with international organisations to try to understand whether a red line had been crossed. He stressed that President Bashar al-Assad must go, and will go.

Before his talks with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Obama was hosted by his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres at the presidential residence, a few streets away in Jerusalem’s Rehavia neighbourhood.

Mr Peres, a Nobel laureate and an avowed dove, is much closer politically to Mr Obama than is Mr Netanyahu. He made it clear he trusted Mr Obama on Iran.


‘Non-military means’
“We trust your policy to try first by non-military means with a clear statement that other options remain on the table.”

It is almost inconceivable that Mr Netanyahu would have made such a statement.

The visit began with Mr Obama being welcomed at Ben Gurion airport by both Mr Peres and Mr Netanyahu, who introduced him to hundreds of waiting dignitaries, including his new cabinet ministers who were sworn in only two days ago.

It was clear both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Obama went out of their way to be super-friendly and forget tense meetings they have had in the past.

Mr Obama stressed the attachment of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, in what appeared to be a correction to comments he made in his speech in Cairo in 2009 when he implied that Israel was established as a response to the Holocaust. He even managed a few words in Hebrew, drawing applause from the crowd, when he said “it’s good to be back in Israel”.


Iron Dome
There was even a humorous moment at the start of the inspection of an Iron Dome anti-missile battery when Mr Obama asked where to start and was told to follow the red line. “Bibi’s always talking to me about red lines,” he quipped, referring to Mr Netanyahu by his familiar name.

Last year Mr Netanyahu insisted that Washington set “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear development capabilities.

Today, after a morning visit to the Israel museum, Mr Obama travels to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

On returning to Jerusalem he will address a gathering of Israeli students in what is seen by the presidential entourage as the highlight of his trip.

He chose not to address the Knesset parliament because he wanted to speak directly to the Israeli public.