Charles Dharapak / AP
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office on Monday.
President Barack Obama said Monday that “we take no options off the table, including military options” to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon that could further destabilize the Middle East.
Obama made the remark in the Oval Office after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who encouraged Obama to keep sanctions in place against Iran, and perhaps even tighten them, during coming talks on the Iranian nuclear program.
The two leaders met three days after Obama placed a call to the president of Iran, the first direct conversation between the leaders of those two countries since 1979.
The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has indicated interest in a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says that the program is peaceful, but the West suspects — and Israel insists — that Iran has designs on a nuclear bomb.
“Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu said Monday. “For Israel, the ultimate test of a future agreement with Iran is whether or not Iran dismantles its military nuclear program.”
Obama said that longstanding economic sanctions against Iran are one reason Iran has come to the bargaining table to talk about its nuclear ambitions. He said it was important to give diplomacy a chance, but stressed that Iran must make good on its promises.
“It is absolutely clear that words are not sufficient, that we have to have actions that give the international community confidence that in fact they are meeting their international obligations fully and that they are not in a position to have a nuclear weapon,” Obama said.
Obama last week directed Secretary of State John Kerry to work with U.S. allies, Russia and China to pursue a deal with Iran. Obama said that the United States and Iran could set out on a “long road towards a different relationship.”
Netanyahu suggested on Sunday, as he boarded a flight from Israel to the United States, that Iran would be a point of contention in his talk with Obama.
“I will tell the truth in the face of the sweet talk and the onslaught of smiles,” the Israeli prime minister said. “Telling the truth today is vital for the security and peace of the world, and, of course, it is vital for the security of the state of Israel.”
Netanyahu is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. Rouhani was in New York last week for the same meeting and struck a more moderate tone than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Some foreign policy experts termed it a charm offensive, but some Israelis have derisively called it the “smiley campaign.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
First published September 30 2013, 5:45 AM