WASHINGTON - US Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said on Thursday that as president he would support an Israeli air strike on Iran if there is proof Tehran is moving closer to having a nuclear weapon.

"Obviously, we are going to support Israel. And I've said that we will support Israel in every way that we can, whether it's diplomatic, whether it's economic sanctions, whether it's overt or covert operations, up to and including military action," the Texas governor said in an interview on CNN.

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"We cannot afford to allow that madman in Iran to get his hands on a nuclear weapon, period," Perry added.

A UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report due next week is expected to unveil new details about the military side of Iran's nuclear program, while stopping short of explicitly saying Tehran is trying to build such weapons. Iran insists its program is for generating electricity.

Perry's campaign has been slipping after swiftly rising to the top of opinion polls when he entered the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination in August.

His comments came as US President Barack Obama called on Thursday for the international community to maintain “unprecedented pressure” on Iran to comply with international obligations on nuclear proliferation.

While Obama warned Iran in advance of the IAEA report, the US legislature also took steps against the Islamic Republic, with a congressional committee approving tougher sanctions in response to an alleged assassination plot in Washington.

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