Obama, Netanyahu to Discuss Iranian Nuclear Program

Posted March 5th, 2012 at 5:10 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is set to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks on Iran's nuclear program, a day after saying he prefers to resolve the issue diplomatically instead of by force.

The meeting Monday at the White House comes at a time of heightened global concern about Iran's nuclear program and possible preemptive action by Israel.

Mr. Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington Sunday that now is the time to let “increased pressure sink in” and sustain the broad international coalition against Iran possessing nuclear weapons.

In his speech to members of the influential AIPAC, Mr. Obama said there is already “too much loose talk of war” with Iran. But he also reaffirmed his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, including using military action.

Mr. Netanyahu said Sunday he appreciated Mr. Obama's remarks that “all options are on the table” and that Israel must be able to defend itself against any threat.

The Israeli leader will address AIPAC later Monday.

Mr. Obama said talk of military intervention only benefits Iran by driving up the price of oil, which the Iranian government depends on to fund its nuclear program.

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are scheduled to address the conference Tuesday, and each criticized Mr. Obama's Iran policy Sunday.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator, told reporters that an Iran without nuclear weapons is the “best thing” that could happen to world markets.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said if the president is re-elected, “Iran will have a nuclear weapon.”

The Iranian nuclear issue was a focal part of Mr. Obama's meeting Sunday with Israeli President Shimon Peres. The two leaders also discussed ways to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, as well as bilateral diplomatic and security cooperation.

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian energy program, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran has made many statements indicating it is ready for international dialogue, but has put conditions on possible talks.