WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama held a special press conference Tuesday, as his Republican rivals embarked on the Super Tuesday vote, and used the platform to level criticism at the GOP's presidential hopefuls, who often blame him for being too soft on Iran.
Obama told reporters that he believes that a window of opportunity in which diplomatic means vis-à-vis Iran can be achieved still exists.
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Iran, he added, is "deeply affected" by the international sanctions imposed against it. Tehran faces a united international front, he said, and is now more politically isolated than ever.
The American president asserted once more that he was doing everything within his power, in collaboration with Israel, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"We're now hearing noises about them returning to the negotiating table, that it is deeply in everybody's interests, the United States', Israel's, and the world's, to see if this can be resolved in a peaceful fashion."
Amid mounting speculation that Israel could attack Iran's nuclear sites in coming months, Obama said that American politicians "beating the drums of war" had a responsibility to explain the costs and benefits of military action.
"This is not just an issue of Israeli interests - this is an issue of American interests," he said further warning that an ill-timed military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities may cost the United States and Israel dearly: "There are consequences for Israel if this happens prematurely, there are consequences for the US as well."
"We don't need to decide now on Iran," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta spoke before the AIPAC conference in Washington and vowed that the United States would take military action to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon if diplomacy fails.
"We want diplomacy to work, we will back the diplomacy with strong and increasing pressure, we will keep all options – including military action – on the table to prevent (Iran) from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Panetta told the pro-Israel lobbying group. "Military action is the last alternative when all else fails, but make no mistake, we will act if we have to."
AP and Reuters contributed to this article
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