US President Barack Obama has said he prefers to use diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but he is making it clear that he will not "hesitate to use force" when necessary to defend the US and its interests.
Obama also said in a speech to a pro-Israel organisation on Sunday that "there is too much loose talk of war" these days amid concern about a possible pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
The president made the remarks at the America Israel Public Affairs Committee's (AIPAC) annual policy conference.
The address comes one day before a White House meeting with Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Iran was expected to be the dominant theme at AIPAC, unlike last year when Obama tried to rally support behind US-brokered Palestinian-Israeli peace talks that have since foundered.
"This year's conference gathers at a time when the global threat posed by Iran is at an all-time high," AIPAC said in a statement, adding that both Obama and Netanyahu would tackle the threat in their speeches.
"Iran is nearing nuclear-weapons capability, jeopardizing American national security and threatening our friends in the Gulf as well as our broader interests in the Middle East," it said.
It warned of what it called heightened Iranian terrorist activity and said "Iran's leaders call for Israel to be wiped off the map as they pursue nuclear weapons that would pose an intolerable threat to the Jewish state".
Iran denies US and Israeli charges of a weapons drive, saying its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|
|William A. Cook|