In U.S., Netanyahu Refuses to Rule Out Military Strike on Iran

Prime Minister refuses to 'deal with hypotheticals' of Israeli strike, but calls for international sanctions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave no clue in a series of U.S. television interviews on Tuesday whether Israel might opt to attack Iran if world pressure failed to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

"I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals," he replied when asked about the possibility of an Israeli strike in separate appearances on the ABC, CNN and Fox networks.

He said that Israel, like any other country, reserved the right of self-defense and reaffirmed his support for U.S. President Barack Obama's position that all options were on the table in dealing with Iran.

Netanyahu, who met earlier in New York with Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on restarting Middle East peace negotiations, repeated in the interviews a call for stronger international sanctions on Iran.

"I think the important thing is to recognize that Iran's ambitions to acquire or develop nuclear weapons is a threat, not only to Israel, but to the entire world," Netanyahu said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

"I'm hopeful and I would like to believe that the international community understands that Iran has to be pressed strongly," he said.

"There are ways of pressing this regime right now, because it's weak. It's weaker than people think. It doesn't enjoy the support of its own people."

Netanyahu is likely to focus on Iran's nuclear ambitions in a speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday. He has said a nuclear Iran would pose an existential threat to Israel.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It has agreed to start talks on Oct. 1 with world powers on the dispute. Israel, which destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor in an air strike in 1981, is widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power.

Also on Tuesday, Japanese officials said that Iran Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told his Japanese counterpart in New York that the Islamic Republic wanted to cooperate with Japan in working to abolish nuclear weapons.

In talks on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Mottaki told Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada that Iran had no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons and that the age of nuclear weapons was over, Japanese officials said.

Mottaki added that Iran was willing to work with Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, in the effort to ban nuclear weapons, they said.

Okada said it was a pity suspicion hung over Iran's nuclear activities and urged Mottaki to hold frank discussions with the Obama administration, but Mottaki said Iran had no intention of talking about its nuclear "rights," the officials said.

Ahmadinejad, Obama to tackle Iran nuclear program in UN meet

Diplomatic sources in New York said on Tuesday that U.S. President Barack Obama will speak against nuclear proliferation when he addresses the opening of the 64th UN General Assembly Wednesday.

He is expected to mention the dialogue between the West and Iran on nuclear issues, which is due to start in October, and speak about the Middle East and the importance of the international struggle against global warming.

UN diplomats said Obama is expected to say that since he entered the White House he has seen reaching an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians as a top priority. He is also expected to repeat the importance he sees in the "two states for two peoples" principle as the only solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Obama is expected to remark that the United States is ready to open a new page in its relations with Iran, ahead of the talks between the states with the participation of the regular Security Council members and Germany.

However, diplomats say Obama's message of reconciliation with Iran is actually intended for Russian and Chinese ears. These two powers, which firmly object toughening sanctions on Iran, have veto power in the UN Security Council.

The sources said the United States has accepted the assumption that the talks with Iran would not yield practical results and that tougher sanctions against it will be required.

Obama is expected to say that he prefers to reach a diplomatic solution with North Korea.

Obama will devote a large part of his speech to the ongoing threat posed by world terror and warn that al-Qaida is showing signs of rehabilitation and that the Taliban is strengthening.

He will also speak about terror activity in the area straddling the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Obama is expected emphasize his unequivocal commitment to eliminating the nuclear threat worldwide and encourage UN members to dedicate resources and efforts to fight poverty, disease and global warming.

The U.S. president intends to leave the plenum hall as soon as he finishes his speech and will not be there when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks. The latter, judging by his addresses to two previous UN assemblies, is expected to accuse Israel of a "continuous aggressive policy intended to destroy the Palestinian people."

Ahmadinejad will likely praise his country's "religious values" and denounce the spiritual deterioration in Western culture.

Diplomats believe that the Iranian president will emphasize that his country's nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes and that Iran has no intention of stopping or suspending the program.

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gadhafi, who will also address the assembly today, is also expected to bash Israel and the West with hostile, radical remarks. Gadhafi has spoken in the past against the peace process and talks with Israel.

Meager expectations

Senior diplomats said Obama may be disappointed by his diplomatic activity in the UN and return to Washington with meager achievements.

Reuters published a large story earlier this week saying that "Obama's global starpower remains strong but doubts are emerging about what he can deliver in a week in which he will make his United Nations debut and host a financial summit."

Reporter Caren Bohan wrote, "James Lindsay, a former Clinton administration adviser, said Obama would receive a warm reception from foreign leaders but 'reality is setting in'."

"Expectations for what President Obama was going to deliver were far too high," Lindsey, now at the Council on Foreign Relations, added. "The reality of the presidency is that the moment he starts to make decisions, he starts alienating people. There's always going to be disappointment because countries have read into Obama all of their hopes and dreams."