WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Barack Obama has reiterated his determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Obama and U.S. officials also spoke about broad objectives of his visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan next week.
In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television, Obama said it would take Iran "over a year or so" to develop a nuclear weapon, adding as he put it, "obviously we don't want to cut it too close."
It was not clear whether he meant that U.S. and Israeli timelines agree about any so-called "breakout" decision by Iran to proceed to development of a weapon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently that Iran is getting close to passing an Israeli "red line" marking that point.
Obama said diplomacy would yield "a more lasting solution," but reiterated his determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
"When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table; the United States obviously has significant capabilities," he said. "But our goal is to make sure that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel or could trigger an arms race in the region."
Obama repeated that the window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution is not "infinite," adding Iran can still utilize an "open door."
U.S. officials spoke about broader objectives of Obama's Middle East trip that begins Wednesday in Jerusalem, and takes him to Ramallah in the West Bank, and Jordan.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said there is excitement in Israel, where people also recognize a need for leaders to discuss critical issues such as Iran and Syria.
"I think they also are hopeful that the consultations between our leaders early in their new terms will chart the course for making progress on all of those issues in the months and in the years ahead," he said.
Obama will deliver a major address to Israelis in Jerusalem, but, he will not bring any new initiative for moving Israelis and Palestinians closer to direct negotiations on a two-state solution.
White House official Ben Rhodes said the president sees the trip as the start of a "broad conversation" about important decisions ahead and said Israel needs to consider changes in the region.
"Israel needs to take into account the changing dynamic and the need to reach out to public opinion across the region as it seeks to make progress on issues like Israeli-Palestinian peace and broader Arab-Israeli peace," he said.
President Obama will not be accompanied by his wife Michelle on the trip, but will have with him Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently traveled extensively in the region.