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Obama: Window for diplomacy in Iran shrinking
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
14/03/2012
US President says administration will do "everything we can" for diplomatic solution, but urges Tehran to negotiate.
 
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama warned Wednesday that the window to resolve the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program diplomatically was shrinking, and that Tehran would face consequences if it didn’t take fresh talks seriously.

“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, the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking,” Obama said during a Rose Garden press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“I hope that the Iranian regime understands that this is their best bet for resolving this in a way that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations and prosper, and feel secure themselves,” Obama said.

Obama was responding to a reporter’s question of whether the talks recently announced by the P5+1 group of world powers were Tehran’s final opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue before military action was taken.

Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Wednesday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent a message to Iran, with which it does not have diplomatic relations, via Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, that the negotiations were Iran’s “last chance,” according to an unnamed Russian diplomatic source.

“The Israelis are de facto blackmailing Obama. They put him into an interesting position: Either he backs the war or loses the support [of the American Jewish lobby],” the well-connected newspaper quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying, Reuters reported.

The State Department did not respond to a request for confirmation from The Jerusalem Post, and the Kommersant article wasn’t cited during the Rose Garden press conference.

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

But Obama did say that “I have sent a message very directly to them publicly that they need to seize this opportunity of negotiations with the P5+1 to avert even worse consequences for Iran in the future.”

Cameron joined Obama in warning that should Tehran refuse to meet the conditions on its nuclear program imposed by the international community, the US, Britain and other international partners would “continue to increase the political and economic pressure to achieve a peaceful outcome to this crisis.” He added that “nothing is off the table.”

Obama welcomed Cameron to Washington with a state dinner set for Wednesday night, and on Tuesday brought the British leader to a college basketball game in Ohio. The two leaders also discussed Syria, Afghanistan and the economic difficulties facing both nations.

The pair touched on these issues in a joint op-ed published in The Washington Post ahead of the prime minister’s visit, in which they “there is time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution” with Tehran.

Their consultations follow the visit last week of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who stressed that time is running out and that Iran has used diplomacy as a stalling tactic in the past.

Obama acknowledged this concern in his remarks Wednesday.

He pointed to Tehran’s history of looking “to delay, stall, to do a lot of talking but not actually move the ball forward” in talks and warned them not to take such a similar approach this time.

Meanwhile, polls on attitudes toward a strike on Iran yielded conflicting results.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday found that 56 percent of Americans would support US military action against Iran if there were evidence of a nuclear weapon program, while 39% were opposed.

Nearly the same number, 53%, said they would back strikes even if they led to higher gas prices, with slightly more, 42%, saying they would not.

In addition, 62% of Americans would support Israel taking military action against Iran for the same reasons, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

But that finding was in direct contrast to the determination of another survey, released by the Brookings Institution on Tuesday, which indicated that only one in four Americans favors Israel conducting a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program. Some 69% preferred for the US and world powers to consider diplomacy with Iran.

The polling project was supervised by Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes, and Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a Brookings senior fellow.

In addition to phrasing the question as a choice between an Israeli attack and American pursuit of diplomacy, the poll also differed with that of Reuters/Ipsos in that the latter added the context of evidence of a nuclear weapon program, while the poll released by Brookings gave no such additional context.

A third poll, to be released Thursday, found that 50% of Israelis believe the IDF should not attack Iranian nuclear reactors, even if diplomatic attempts fail. Only 43% support such a strike, the poll found.

While 78% of the Israeli public believes a military strike would postpone Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon by several years, only 16% believe it would eliminate its nuclear capability altogether, according to the poll.

Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.
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