Obama And Netanyahu Focus On Iran's Nuclear Program

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday their nations stand together in their efforts to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday their nations stand together in their efforts to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon.

The two leaders met at the White House to discuss Iran's nuclear program and other Middle East issues amid talk that Israel may attack nuclear sites in Iran.

In comments to reporters before the meeting, Obama said both he and Netanyahu prefer a diplomatic solution to the Iranian issue.

However, Obama made clear -- as he did in a speech to the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday -- that military force remains an option in the effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

"The United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security," Obama said, repeating a line from the Sunday speech as Netanyahu nodded in agreement.

"I reserve all options and my policy here is not going be one of containment; my policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and, as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are on the table, I mean it," Obama added.

Netanyahu said he welcomed Obama's "strong speech" on Sunday and noted that Iran considers the United States and Israel to be similar foes.

"For them you're the great Satan, we're the little Satan," Netanyahu said. "For them, we are you and you are us. And you know something, Mr. President? At least on this last point, I think they're right. We are you and you are us. We're together. ... Israel and America stand together."

At the same time, Netanyahu insisted that Israel must remain "the master of its fate" in defending itself against Iran having a nuclear weapon or any other threat.

"Israel must reserve the right to defend itself and after all, that's the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny," Netanyahu said.

The United States and Israel suspect that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Both have said they will act to prevent that, while Iran maintains that its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes.

Earlier Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Director General Yukiya Amano, reiterated agency warnings that it cannot say whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, as the Islamic republic maintains.

Amano said the IAEA "continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions."

Monday's White House meeting lasted for two hours, with the leaders then taking part in a working lunch with their delegations, according to senior U.S. administration officials who spoke on condition of not being identified.

During the meeting, Netanyahu was expected to press Obama for clarity on what would constitute the so-called "red line" on nuclear arms for Iran to cross that would cause the United States to strike.

However, the senior administration officials said Israel did not expect the Obama administration to shift from its stance that opposes Iran having a nuclear weapon, compared to Israel's opposition to Iran having just the capability of developing a nuclear weapon.

Obama, meanwhile, was considered likely to push Israel to refrain from any military action on its own in order to give diplomacy and expanded sanctions against Iran a full chance to resolve the issue.

The president had no public appearances after Monday's meeting, while Netanyahu was to speak later at the AIPAC conference in Washington. The White House announced Obama will hold a news conference on Tuesday.

Obama is under constant criticism over his Iran policy from Republican opponents, including the leading GOP contenders to run against him in November's U.S. elections. Republicans call for a stronger public stance against the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

Speaking to AIPAC on Sunday, Obama warned that "all elements of American power" remain an option to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, though the president also made clear that he prefers diplomacy over war, both as a principle and in the case of Iran.

"Too much loose talk of war with Iran" only benefits the Iranian government by driving up the price of oil, Obama said to the pro-Israel lobby group.

Obama said his policy is not containment of a nuclear Iran, but preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. At the same time, he emphasized that Iran "should not doubt Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs."

While Obama's statements are consistent with his past pronouncements, his specific reference to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon -- rather than the capability of building a nuclear weapon -- maintained what some consider to be a difference from Israel's position.

Israeli officials say that if Iran were to become able to enrich weapons-grade uranium, it would potentially cross the "red line" of nuclear weapons capability that Israel fears.

In a statement issued Sunday after Obama's speech, Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the president's position that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

"I also appreciated the fact that he made clear that when it comes to a nuclear-armed Iran, containment is simply not an option," Netanyahu said, "and equally, in my judgment, perhaps most important of all, I appreciated the fact that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."