JERUSALEM (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said in an Israeli TV interview broadcast on Thursday it is highly unlikely the Jewish state would surprise Washington with an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“It is unacceptable for Iran to posses nuclear weapons and we are going to do everything we can to prevent that happening,” Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 television in the interview taped on Wednesday.
“I think the relationship between the US and Israel is sufficiently strong that neither of us try to surprise each other,” he said, when asked if he was concerned Israel could catch the US off guard with an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
“We try to coordinate on issues of mutual concern and that approach is one Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu is committed to,” Obama said.
Israel, which has the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear arsenal, regards Iran as its principal threat after repeated predictions by the Islamic republic’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Jewish state’s demise.
Along with the West, it suspects Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a claim Tehran denies.
Israel has backed US-led efforts to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability through sanctions, but has also refused to rule out military force.
In 1981, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor and reportedly also attacked a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007.
Obama said despite Iranian denials, “all indicators are they are pursuing nuclear weapons,” and preventing this was a priority for him.
“The single most important threat to Israel, Iran and its potential possession of a nuclear weapon, has been my number one foreign policy priority in the last 18 months,” the US president said.
“We will continue to keep the door open for a diplomatic resolution of this challenge,” he said, adding that “I assure you I have not taken options off the table.”
Iran insists its nuclear programme is aimed solely at power generation and medical research and says the international community should focus its attention on Israel, which, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Ahmadinejad said on Thursday that new sanctions recently slapped on his country by Western nations would not alter Tehran’s nuclear programme.
No matter how many sanctions resolutions are approved, “there will be no minor change in our nuclear programme,” he said through a translator after attending a summit in Nigeria.
“Those resolutions are only paper. What’s going to shape our future is our determination.”
Obama gave the interview, his first to an Israeli channel since taking office, during a visit to the United States by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been hailed as a fence-mending trip between the two leaders.