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US Vice President Backs Israel's Right to Preemptive Military Action

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says Israel is entitled to decide for itself how best to respond to Iran's growing nuclear capabilities. Mr. Biden also says America's willingness to engage in dialogue with Iran is unchanged, despite Tehran's violent crackdown on demonstrators following last month's disputed presidential vote.

Vice President Biden says Israel has the right to deal with foreign threats as it sees fit.

"Israel can determine for itself, as a sovereign nation, what is in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran or anyone else,' said Vice President Biden. "Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that."

Mr. Biden was speaking on ABC's This Week program.

Israel has long-insisted its right to self-defense includes preemptive strikes against looming threats in the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed support for diplomatic efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear program. But he has not ruled out a unilateral military move against Iran, whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel's destruction.

While the Obama administration backs Israel's right to self defense, U.S. military officials stress an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is undesirable. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, spoke on CBS's Face the Nation program.

"I have been, for some time, concerned about any strike on Iran," said Admiral Mullen. "I worry about it being very destabilizing - not just in and of itself, but the unintended consequences of a strike like that."

Mullen added, however, that he does not believe Iran should have nuclear weapons.

"I worry about the proliferation of the technology," he said. "I worry about other nations in the region thinking that they might have to have that capability [as well]."

President Obama has expressed outrage over Iran's sometimes-violent suppression of protesters who allege fraud in the country's presidential vote last month. But he says the offer of dialogue with Tehran is unchanged. Vice President Biden reiterated that point, saying he believes the U.S. approach to Iran is in the best interests of the world, including Israel.

"The offer is on the table," he said. "The Iranian government has a choice. They either choose greater isolation from the whole world, or they decide to take their rightful place [among] civilized great nations. That is the path they have to choose."

Iran has long-maintained the purpose of its nuclear program is to generate energy to satisfy the needs of a growing population. The United States, Israel, and much of the international community are highly skeptical of Tehran's claim.