Sat, March 03, 2012
World > Asia-Pacific

U.S. warnings over Iran's nuclear program no bluffing, says Obama

2012-03-02 19:58:41 GMT2012-03-03 03:58:41(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

WASHINGTON, March 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has stated that he did not "bluff" when he warned of possible American military action over Iran's disputed nuclear program, local media reported on Friday.

The president, scheduled to meet with Israeli leaders early next week, also said that both Iran and Israel should take seriously the possibility of American action against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Obama made the remarks in a 45-minute interview earlier this week with Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic monthly, which was published online on Friday.

"I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff," Obama said.

"I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say," the president added.

Obama will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu separately on Sunday and Monday, at a time of heightened tensions with Iran and a growing Israeli clamor for preemptive military strike on Iran's nuclear sites.

In his January State of the Union address, Obama said that he would "take no options off the table" in preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. This time, he went further by describing the final option as the "military component."

He said Tehran's nuclear program would represent a "profound" national security threat to the United States even if Israel were not a target of Iran's "violent rhetoric." And he rejected the idea that Washington could successfully contain a nuclear Iran.

"You're talking about the most volatile region in the world," he explained. "It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon."

"The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world," he added.

But Obama also said that during his upcoming meeting with Netanyahu, he would seek to persuade the prime minister to postpone whatever plans Israel may have to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months.

"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally (Syria) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?" he asked.

He also noted that military action would only delay, not prevent, Iran's acquisition of nuclear bombs.

The president said he would try to convince Netanyahu that he is seeking a permanent, not a temporary, solution to Iran's nuclear program by making the country believe that nuclear weapons are not in its best interest.

He said sanctions in place have put Iran in a "world of hurt," and economic duress might soon force Tehran to rethink its efforts to pursue a nuclear-weapons program.

The United States accused Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons through its nuclear program, which Tehran insists is only for civilian purposes.

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