Middle East

Israeli press disappointed over Obama's Iran speech

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israel's main newspapers on Monday expressed disappointment over a key speech by U.S. President Barack Obama in which he pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran's contested nuclear program.

The US leader's remarks, made on Sunday to delegates at the powerful pro-Israel AIPAC lobby, came just a day before he was to hold key talks on Iran at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Obama promised us that the United States would not accept (Iranian) nuclear weapons," wrote Sima Kadmon in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper.

"But we should also note what was not said there. Obama did not budge a millimeter from his position, according to which the only way to prevent nuclear weapons is to persuade Iran to give them up of its own volition."

In his address, Obama gave a strong nod to Israel's refusal to contemplate a nuclear-armed Iran, acknowledged its right to self-defence and vowed he would "not hesitate to use force" where necessary.

But he made clear that the United States would use military force only after all diplomatic options had been exhausted.

"Obama didn't wait for his private meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today to clarify his position on Iran's nuclear program," the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said, noting the president had "urged everyone to set the war drums aside."

Israel has repeatedly said it would not rule out military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but in his speech Obama criticised "loose talk of war" and pleaded for patience, arguing that coordinated international pressure would force Tehran to the negotiating table.

Netanyahu is to meet Obama at the White House at 10:45 am (1545 GMT) with the Israeli leader set to give his own address to AIPAC delegates later on Monday.





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