Israeli President Shimon Peres, insisting that the United States “can’t afford a nuclear Iran,” predicted that his meeting today in Washington with President Barack Obama will be “a frank discussion among friends” on that and other issues.
The meeting today will be followed by talks in the White House tomorrow between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the two allies try to bridge disagreements over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. officials have called for more time to let stricter sanctions have an impact, while Israeli leaders have warned publicly that time is running out for a military strike that could stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
“I don’t think the U.S. or international community can afford for themselves a nuclear Iran,” Peres said after arriving in Washington on Friday evening, according to an emailed statement sent from his office in Jerusalem. “We have to give sanctions time to work while keeping ready all the alternatives, as Israel once again emphasizes that all options are on the table.”
Peres and Obama are also scheduled today to speak at the annual Washington conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Peres will tell AIPAC that, although “Israel is not rushing into war,” it is prepared to fight and win if forced to, the Haaretz daily said today, citing unidentified “sources close to Peres.”
Netanyahu, who spent the weekend in Ottawa meeting Canadian officials before traveling to Washington today, also reiterated that Israel is not ruling out any options on Iran, including a military strike.
Speaking on Friday after meeting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Netanyahu laid out three steps by Iran that he said would preclude an Israeli attack: dismantling its underground nuclear facility in Qom, stopping uranium enrichment and disposing of all enriched material other than what would be used to make medical isotopes or generate atomic power.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Army Radio today that Netanyahu’s recent statements make it clear that in the meeting with Obama “it will be emphasized that Israel is a sovereign state that maintains its right to defend itself.”
Obama, in an interview published Friday in the Atlantic magazine, said Iran can’t be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon and the U.S. will do what’s necessary. He repeated that the U.S. is leaving all options open and that the ultimate option is the “military component.”
The U.S. and the European Union tightened economic sanctions following a November 2011 report by United Nations inspectors that Iran’s nuclear research program may include pursuing the capability to build a nuclear weapon. It said there was evidence Iran was working on a weapon designed to fit on a missile that could reach Israel and Europe. Iran says its nuclear program is for civilian energy and medical research.
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