WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned Iran on Tuesday the United States would keep up pressure on its disputed nuclear program with “no options off the table” but said the door remained open to talks for a peaceful resolution.
In his State of the Union address, Obama said Tehran was isolated and facing “crippling” sanctions that he said would continue so long as the Islamic Republic keeps its back turned to the international community.
“America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations,” he said.
Upon taking office in 2009, Obama broke with his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and offered an olive branch to Iran, saying he wanted a new beginning with the country that Bush had labelled part of the “axis of evil.”
But the offer to negotiate has not borne fruit and tensions have continued to escalate over the Iranian nuclear program that Tehran says is for energy purposes and Western nations fear is meant to build a nuclear weapon.
In his speech to Congress, which focused mainly on the U.S. economy, Obama also said he was sure that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad “will soon discover that the forces of change can’t be reversed” and said the United States would stand against violence and intimidation in the Middle East and beyond.
By contrast, he described the democratic transition in Myanmar, or Burma, as having “lit a new hope” in Asia.
With the address, he also sought to assuage concerns among Jewish voters in the United States about his stance on Israel.
“Our iron-clad commitment - and I mean iron-clad - to Israel’s security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history,” Obama said.
Iran’s nuclear program is a major concern for Israel, which has not ruled out a unilateral strike on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Additional reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Eric Beech