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(photo credit: AP)
The US has "absolutely not" given Israel a green light for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
Obama was qualifying comments Vice President Joe Biden had made Sunday that left the impression the US would not stand in the way of an Israeli action.
"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," said Obama, currently in Russia, during a CNN interview.
Obama said it was "very important that I'm as clear as I can be, and our administration is as consistent as we can [be] on this issue."
The president said that Biden had simply been stating the "categorical fact" that "we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," he said.
On Sunday, Biden was asked on ABC's This Week whether the US would stand in the way militarily if Israel decided to take out Iran's nuclear program.
The US "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do," he said.
"Israel can determine for itself - it's a sovereign nation - what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," he said.
Israel had no formal comment on either the Obama or Biden remarks.
Nevertheless, the IDF has taken into consideration the possibility that it will not receive US permission to fly over Iraq on the way to Iran, and has drawn up an operational plan for this contingency. While its preference is to coordinate with the US, defense officials have said in the past that Israel was preparing a wide range of options for such an operation.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his top deputies had not formally asked for US aid or permission for a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, since they feared the White House would not approve.
The report quoted two unnamed Israeli officials.
An anonymous senior Israeli official was quoted as saying that Netanyahu was determined that "it made no sense" to press the matter after the negative response former US president George W. Bush.
Bush gave the prime minister's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, a negative answer when he asked early last year for US assistance for possible military strikes on Iran.
"There was a decision not to press this because it was probably inadequate for the engagement policy and what we know about Obama's approach to Iran," the official said.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.