Obama: Nuclear Iran a "game-changing" situation

Other News Materials 23 July 2008 21:46 (UTC +04:00)

An Iran with atomic weapons would be a "game-changing" situation in the Middle East and the world, which could set off a nuclear arms race in the region, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential contender Barack Obama said Wednesday, dpa reported.

The issue was of "paramount importance" to the United States, he told reporters in the southern Israeli town of Sderot.

Asked whether he would meet with the leader of countries such as Iran, he replied that "I meet with leaders without any preconditions. If I think I can get a deal that is going to advance (the US) cause, I will consider that opportunity."

"If we show ourselves willing to talk and to offer carrots and sticks to deal with these problems, and if Iran rejects such overtures, it puts us in a stronger position to mobilize international support," he said.

Obama, accompanied by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, visited Sderot as part of a 30-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Standing in Sderot's police headquarters, surrounded by the remains of thousands of makeshift missiles militant Palestinians have fired at southern Israel over the last seven years, he said that the "violence" was intolerable.

He appeared to back Israel's military responses to the rocket attacks, which until a truce with the militants agreed one month ago, involved airstrikes on, and ground raids against, rocket-firing militant groups in the Gaza Strip.

"I can assure you if someone was sending rockets in my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm gonna do everything in my power to stop them. I will expect Israel to do the same," he said.

He was deeply committed to Israel's security, he said, and Israel had to ensure that peace was not obtained "by putting Israel's security at risk" but, he added, "I believe it is in the interests of Israeli security to arrive at a lasting peace with the Palestinians."

"We do not need a peace deal just to have a piece of paper. ... We need something meaningful," he continued.

Obama repeated comments, made earlier in the day when visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, that if elected president he would not seek to impose a peace deal on Israel.

"If I'm the president my job and (my) team's job is not to dictate to any of the parties," he said.

In a dig at the Islamic Hamas movement, which administers the Gaza Strip and which rejects Israel's right to exist, he said the US had to support Palestinian leaders who shared the vision of an Israeli and Palestinian state living side by side, "including the Palestinian leaders I met today."

Asked if Israel should negotiate with Hamas, he said that "it is very hard to negotiate with a group that does not recognise Israel's right to exist."