Video: ‘Too much loose talk of war’

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    >>> making a lot of people increasingly nervous, about iran and its nuclear program . it was a backdrop today as president obama addressed this country's most important pro israel lobbying group , apac. trying to tone down talk of war with iran and the eve of an important meeting with israel 's prime minister. we get the latest from nbc's mike viqueira.

    >> reporter: today president obama left no doubt, iran 's nuclear ambitions must be stopped.

    >> when it comes to preventing iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon , i will take no options off the table. and i mean what i say.

    >> reporter: with expectations growing of an israeli strike against eye reason's nuclear site, the president reassured a key ally and supporters in apac.

    >> when the chips are down, i have israel 's back.

    >> reporter: but the president also appealed for time to allow sanctions against iran to work, and called on leaders to tone down the rhetoric.

    >> already there is too much loose talk of war. for the last few weeks such talk has only benefited the iranian government by driving up the price of oil.

    >> reporter: the speech come on the eve of israeli president benjamin netanyahu 's visit to the white house for a crucial meeting. it will be the ninth face to face session in what has been a rocky relationship. visiting canada friday, netanyahu made his stance on iran clear.

    >> like any sovereign country, we reserve the right to defend ourselves against a country that calls and works for our destruction.

    >> reporter: as tension mounts, the issue has spilled into the campaign. republicans accuse the president of being soft on iran .

    >> if barack obama gets re-elected, iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change.

    >> reporter: experts say there can be little doubt of israel 's resolve.

    >> if the israelis judge that their interests require an attack on iran 's incipientient nuclear facilities before the end of the calendar year, very little, there is very little any american president in my judgment will say or would say to stop them.

    >> reporter: and, lester, it would be difficult to overstate the stakes involved here. experts say if there is a military strike against the iranian facilities, iran would likely retaliate against u.s. forces across the region. lester?

    >> mike viqueira at the white

updated 3/4/2012 1:57:05 PM ET 2012-03-04T18:57:05

President Barack Obama said Sunday the United States will not hesitate to attack Iran with military force to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but he cautioned that "too much loose talk of war" recently has only helped Tehran and driven up the price of oil.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing his ground against what his country perceives as a threat to its existence, said that he perhaps most appreciated hearing Obama say that "Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

Speaking to a powerful pro-Israel lobby, Obama appealed to Israel for more time to let sanctions further isolate Iran. He sought to halt a drumbeat to war with Iran and hold off a unilateral Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"For the sake of Israel's security, America's security and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster," Obama told thousands at the annual American-Israel Public Affairs Committee's policy conference. "Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built."

Quoting Theodore Roosevelt, Obama said he would "speak softly, but carry a big stick" — and warned Iran not to test U.S. resolve.

Many analysts believe an Israeli attack would result in a region-wide conflict, including Iranian attacks on American troops in the Persian Gulf, and could damage the world economy by causing oil prices to skyrocket. It also remains unclear how much damage a military strike would do to Iran's nuclear program. Many of the country's nuclear facilities are buried deep underground.

Obama's widely anticipated speech came one day before he meets at the White House with Netanyahu, who planned to address AIPAC late Monday. Three GOP presidential candidates — Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — were scheduled to speak to the conference via satellite on Tuesday, a critical day in the campaign when 10 states vote.

To Israel and to Jewish voters in this country, Obama promoted his administration's commitment to the Mideast ally.

"You don't have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds," Obama said. He defended his record of rallying to Israel's security and political sovereignty, saying: "We have been there for Israel. Every single time."

Obama's comments were heavily laced with the politics of the campaign. He blamed distortions of his record on partisan politics.

Netanyahu, in brief comments to reporters before attending a conference of Jewish leaders in Canada, made no reference to the sanctions and diplomatic avenues that Obama wants to give time to work.

The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, spoke before Obama and said that a nuclear Iran would be a menace to the world, not just to Israel's security.

"Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction and is an affront to human dignity," Peres said. He said Israel knows the horrors of war and does not seek one with Iran, "but if we are forced to fight, trust me. We shall prevail."

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The U.S., Israel and many allies see no sign of that, and Israeli leaders openly have discussed the possibility of a military strike.

"Let's begin with the truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies that Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel's destruction," Obama said.

Obama said he would use all sources of American power, but that only true resolution would come from diplomacy.

U.S. officials worry that an Israeli attack on oil-power Iran could drive up pump prices and entangle the U.S. in a new Mideast confrontation during this year's presidential election season. They want to give diplomacy and economic penalties more time to work.

The United States and Europe have pursued more severe banking and other economic penalties separately. The toughest take effect this summer and target Iran's oil business and powerful central bank.

"I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy — backed by pressure — to succeed," Obama insisted.

And in his greatest detail to date, Obama spelled out the consequences of a military campaign against Iran.

"I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues," Obama said. "Already, there is too much loose talk of war."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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