WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama warned Iran that the window for dealing with its nuclear program through diplomatic channels is "shrinking."
Speaking Wednesday at a White House press conference alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama said he hopes Iran understands that diplomacy is their "best bet" and the Islamic regime needs to seize that opportunity, saying that there is still "time and space" for a diplomatic solution.
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"Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it. Meet your international obligations or face the consequences," he added.
Commenting on the current attempts made to pressure Iran into abandoning its nuclear program, Obama said: "We have applied the toughest sanctions ever on Iran, and we've mobilized the international community with greater unity than we've ever seen.
Obama and Cameron greet fans (Photo: AFP)
"Those sanctions are going to begin to bite even harder this summer. And we're seeing significant effects on the Iranian economy. So they understand the seriousness with which we take this issue. They understand that there are consequences to them continuing to flout the international community. And I have sent a message very directly to them publicly that they need to seize this opportunity of negotiations with the P-5 plus one to avert even worse consequences for Iran in the future," he said.
'Window of opportunity is shrinking'
As for the prospects of successful negotiations, Obama said: "Do I have a guarantee that Iran will walk through this door that we're offering them? No. In the past there's been a tendency for Iran in these negotiations with the P-5 plus one to delay, to stall, to do a lot of talking, but not actually move the ball forward.
"I think they should understand that because the international community has applied so many sanctions, because we have employed so many of the options that are available to us to persuade Iran to take a different course, that the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking."
Cameron receives lavish reception at White House (Photo: AP)
Obama added that the United States does not only seek to contain Iran's nuclear weapon, but rather to prevent it from getting such a weapon.
"It would trigger a nuclear arms race in the most dangerous part of the world; it would raise nonproliferation issues that would have – carry significant risks to our national security interests; it would embolden terrorists in the region who might believe that they could act with more impunity if they were operating under the protection of Iran," he said.
Obama concluded that the two leaders "will do everything to resolve this diplomatically. But ultimately we've got to have somebody on the other side of the table who's taking this seriously, and I hope that the Iranian regime understands that, that this is their best bet for resolving this in a way that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations and to prosper and feel secure themselves. "
The White House lavished Cameron with all the pomp and pageantry of a state visit as the two allies aimed stressed their unity in dealing with hot spots like Iran, Syria and Afghanistan.
At a welcoming ceremony, military bands and a large crowd were arrayed before Obama and Cameron, with Vice President Joe Biden and top administration officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton standing for a 19-gun salute and the national anthems of both nations
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
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