US President Barack Obama has warned against a premature strike against Iran, ahead of a meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Tel Aviv has said all options are on the table.
A premature strike against Iran would run the risk of allowing the Islamic Republic to play the "victim," Obama said in an interview with the Atlantic Monthly magazine on Friday.
"At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally [Syria] is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as the victim?" Obama said.
He said that his administration's Iran policy contains "a military component," and that both Tehran and Tel Aviv understand Washington is serious about stopping the Islamic Republic from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
His comments came ahead of a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
The Israeli premier arrived in Ottawa on Friday to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper amid speculation that Israel could launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran to set back its nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.
The Israeli prime minister warned against engaging in negotiations with Tehran, claiming that talks were a way for the Islamic Republic to buy time.
"It could do again what it has done before," Netanyahu said. "It could pursue or exploit the talks as they've done in the past to deceive and delay so that they can continue to advance their nuclear program and get to the nuclear finish line by running up the clock."
Still, Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that Israel was not yet ready to act.
"We are still waiting. We want to believe that the international community will be able to handle this threat ... But again we keep all options on the table," he said in Sofia, where he was meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart.
The West suspects Iran of using its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to power generation.
However, Tehran has repeatedly denied international monitors access to suspicious sites. In February inspectors from the UN's atomic energy agency were prohibited from visiting the Parchin military site. A November report by the agency said that high-explosives tests consistent with developing nuclear warheads had been carried out there.
ncy, slk/sb (AFP, Reuters, AP)