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In Iranian New Year message, Obama warns Iran of isolation but not strikes

JTA

March 18, 2013 | 2:05 pm

President Barack Obama in Chicago on March 15. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Barack Obama in Chicago on March 15. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

President Obama warned Iran of further isolation but stopped short of threatening military action should the country not cooperate with the international community on its nuclear program.

Obama in his annual message marking the Iranian New Year, known as Nowruz, addressed Iranians and their leaders.

"If, as Iran’s leaders say, their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, then there is a basis for a practical solution," Obama said in a video message posted Monday, two days before he travels to Israel to discuss Iran strategy with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"It’s a solution that would give Iran access to peaceful nuclear energy while resolving once and for all the serious questions that the world has about the true nature of the Iranian nuclear program," the president said, referring to offers by major powers to reduce sanctions in exchange for more transparency and access to Iran's nuclear facilities.

"Finding a solution will be no easy task. But if we can, the Iranian people will begin to see the benefits of greater trade and ties with other nations, including the United States. Whereas if the Iranian government continues down its current path, it will only further isolate Iran. This is the choice now before Iran’s leaders."

Netanyahu, some U.S. pro-Israel groups and a number of U.S. lawmakers of both parties have called on Obama to make more explicit the threat of military action that will be taken to stop an Iranian bomb.

Obama has not discounted the military option, but has estimated that Iran is about one year away from obtaining such a device and prefers to press forward with diplomacy and economic pressure for now.

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