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Obama defends Iran deal at Hanukkah celebration

  • From left, Margit Meissner and Martin Weiss, both Holocaust survivors from the former Czechoslovakia, and President Barack Obama gather as Weiss light the menorah during the second of two Hanukkah receptions in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Thursday defended his nuclear diplomacy with Iran before an audience of Israeli diplomats and senior members of the US Jewish community and officials.

At a White House Hanukkah reception, Obama said that it was important for the United States to test Iran's intentions, and pledged to keep working for a comprehensive deal to deprive Tehran of a nuclear weapon.

"For the first time in a decade we have halted progress of Iran's nuclear program," Obama said.

"Key parts of the program will be rolled back even though the toughest of our sanctions remain in place.

"That is good for the world, that is good for Israel," Obama said, vowing to keep striving for a final deal with Iran over the coming months that takes care of the "threat of Iran's nuclear weapons once and for all."

Obama also said however that Washington must remain vigilant and that its commitment to Israeli security would remain "iron clad" and "unshakeable."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized an interim nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers in Geneva last month.

Obama's critics on Capitol Hill have also questioned the president's tactics and are threatening to enact new sanctions against Iran, which the White House fears would scupper the talks.

The interim nuclear deal freezes aspects of Iran's nuclear program, in return for a modest easing of the sanctions regime that has crippled the Iranian economy.

 
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