President Barack Obama declared on Tuesday the United States will “do what we must” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against threatening attacks whose consequences would be devastating.
Taking the podium at the United Nations six weeks before the U.S. presidential election, Obama sought to counter criticism of his foreign record by Republican rival Mitt Romney, who has accused him of mishandling the Arab Spring uprisings, damaging ties with Israel and not being tough enough on Iran.
Obama also challenged world leaders to stand united against anti-American violence that has swept many Muslim countries in recent weeks and to promote tolerance amid anger over a crudely made video that offended Islam. “There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents,” he said.
Seeking to step up pressure on Iran, Obama told the U.N. General Assembly that there is still time for a diplomacy but that “time is not unlimited.”
His tough talk appeared aimed at easing Israeli concerns about U.S. resolve to curb Tehran’s nuclear drive, as he reasserted before the world body that he would never let Iran develop an atomic bomb and then simply contain the problem.
But he stopped short of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand to set a specific “red line” that Iran must not cross if it is to avoid military action, and did not go much farther in his rhetoric than previously.
“A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations and the stability of the global economy.”
“The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
In an apparent allusion to recent comments by U.S., Israeli and Iranian officials, Ban opened the annual U.N. General Assembly by warning states against threatening to attack one another and sounded a pessimistic note about Arab-Israeli peace.
“I also reject both the language of delegitimization and threats of potential military action by one state against another,” Ban said. “Any such attacks would be devastating.”
U.S. officials have repeatedly said that all options are on the table against Iran - code for a possible military strike - while Israel’s Netanyahu has called for a U.S. ultimatum to Iran. But Obama did not repeat that line in his speech.