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INTERNATIONAL > Romney talks Iran during Israel visit

JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse

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US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2L) and Israel’s President Shimon Peres (2R) talk at a meeting at the president’s residence in Jerusalem. AP photo

US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (2L) and Israel’s President Shimon Peres (2R) talk at a meeting at the president’s residence in Jerusalem. AP photo

White House hopeful Mitt Romney held top-level talks in Israel yesterday about how to handle fears over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, during a visit aimed at burnishing his foreign policy credentials.

“Like you, we are very concerned about the development of nuclear capabilities on the part of Iran and feel it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear armed nation,” Romney told reporters on meeting President Shimon Peres.

“The threat it would pose to Israel, the region and the world is incomparable and unacceptable.” 
The Republican challenger, who will face off against Barack Obama in November’s U.S. election, flew in from Britain late on July 28 for a one-day visit expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program, which Israel and much of the West believes is a covert bid to develop atomic weapons.

“Iran and its effort to become a nuclear-capable nation (is one) which I take with great seriousness, and look forward to chatting with you about further actions that we can take to dissuade Iran from their nuclear folly,” Romney told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier yesterday in remarks carried on Israeli public radio.

Netanyahu told him it was important to have “a strong and credible military threat” because sanctions and diplomacy “so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.” “It’s important to do everything in our power to prevent the Ayatollahs from possessing that capability,” he said. “That’s why I believe we need a strong and credible military threat, coupled with the sanctions, to have a chance to change that situation.”

Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only, albeit undeclared, nuclear arsenal.
Romney later met Shaul Mofaz, leader of the Israeli opposition, who warned him it was not the right time for a military strike on Iran.

Deepening sanctions

“We must be ready for any option, but the time for military action has not yet arrived,” Mofaz said in remarks communicated by a spokesman. “This is the time to deepen sanctions against the Iranian regime, to be alert to any development and in any case, to act in full coordination. A nuclear Iran is a global threat, and not just an issue pertaining to Israel,” he said.

But Romney was expected to express support for Israel’s right to mount a pre-emptive strike when he gives a foreign policy statement later yesterday, the New York Times reported.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Dan Senor, one of Romney’s senior foreign policy advisers, told reporters travelling with the delegation.

July/30/2012

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