WASHINGTON – Ten months before the presidential vote and as the race for the White House heats up, US President Barack Obama stood before congress and delivered what could be the last State of the Union address of his term in office.
With million of Americans watching, Obama detailed his achievements over the past three years, presented his vision for the United States and stressed the ideological differences between him and the Republicans, who are vying for the presidency.
During the part of the speech that addressed the Middle East, Obama warned Iran that the United States would keep up pressure on its disputed nuclear program with "no options off the table" but said the door remained open to talks for a peaceful resolution.
Obama said Tehran was isolated and facing "crippling" sanctions that he said would continue so long as the Islamic Republic keeps its back turned to the international community.
"Look at Iran. Through the power of our diplomacy, a world that was once divided about how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program now stands as one. The regime is more isolated than ever before; its leaders are faced with crippling sanctions, and as long as they shirk their responsibilities, this pressure will not relent.
"Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations."
Upon taking office in 2009, Obama broke with his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and offered an olive branch to Iran, saying he wanted a new beginning with the country that Bush had labeled part of the "axis of evil."
- For the full version of Obama's State of the Union address click here
But the offer to negotiate has not borne fruit and tensions have continued to escalate over the Iranian nuclear program that Tehran says is for energy purposes and Western nations fear is meant to build a nuclear weapon.
With the address, he also sought to assuage concerns among Jewish voters in the United States about his stance on Israel.
"Our iron-clad commitment - and I mean iron-clad - to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history," Obama said.
Iran's nuclear program is a major concern for Israel, which has not ruled out a unilateral strike on Iran's nuclear sites.
In his speech to Congress, which focused mainly on the US economy, Obama also said he was sure that Syrian leader Bashar Assad "will soon discover that the forces of change can't be reversed" and said the United States would stand against violence and intimidation in the Middle East and beyond.
By contrast, he described the democratic transition in Myanmar, or Burma, as having "lit a new hope" in Asia.
Reuters contributed to this report
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