(Inserts Obama's full name and title in paragraph 2)
* Republican candidate looks to boost key support from
* Signals support for Israeli attack to stop Iran building
By Steve Holland
JERUSALEM, July 29 U.S. Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney would respect an Israeli decision to use
military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a
senior aide said on Sunday.
Romney met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, on the second leg of a foreign trip aimed at
bolstering his foreign policy credentials in his race to unseat
President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Shortly before those talks, Romney's senior national
security aide, Dan Senor, told reporters travelling with the
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop
Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect
The comment seemed to put Romney at odds with Obama's
efforts to press Israel to avoid any preemptive strike before
tough Western economic sanctions against Iran run their course.
Senor later expanded his remarks, saying that Romney felt
"we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian
regime from its nuclear course."
It was Romney's "fervent hope that diplomatic and economic
measures will do so," and "no option should be excluded," said
Senor, who added that "Romney recognizes Israel's right to
defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with
Standing beside Netanyahu at the Israeli leader's office,
Romney said only that Iran's effort to become a nuclear power
"is one which I take with great seriousness."
The failure of talks between Iran and six world powers to
secure a breakthrough in curbing what the West fears is a drive
to develop nuclear weapons has raised international concern that
Israel may opt for a go-it-alone military strike. Iran says its
programme is solely for peaceful purposes.
Netanyahu issued his customary call for stronger measures
behind the sanctions to curb Iran's programme, which Israel sees
as a threat to its existence. Iran says its project is for
"STRONG MILITARY THREAT"
"We have to be honest that sanctions have not set back the
Tehran program one iota and that a strong military threat
coupled with sanctions are needed to have a chance to change the
situation," Netanyahu said.
Israel, widely assumed to be the Middle East's only
nuclear-armed state, has warned it is only a matter of time
before Iran's nuclear programme achieves a "zone of immunity" in
which bombs will not be able to effectively strike uranium
enrichment facilities buried deep underground.
Though Washington has been pressing Israel not to launch a
solo strike on Iran, Obama has not ruled out military action if
diplomacy fails to curb Iran's nuclear drive.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said on Sunday that Obama's
national security adviser had briefed Netanyahu on a U.S.
contingency plan to attack Iran. A senior Israeli official
denied the report. [ID: nL6E8IT0P2].
In an effort that appeared timed to upstage Romney's visit
to Israel, Obama signed a measure on Friday to strengthen
U.S.-Israeli military ties and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is
expected to visit Israel later this week.
Romney's overseas tour got off to a rocky start, when he
angered the British by questioning whether London was ready for
the Olympics, a statement he was forced to clarify after a
rebuke from Prime Minister David Cameron.
His visit to Israel gives him the opportunity to appeal to
both Jewish voters and pro-Israel evangelical voters and
contrast himself with Obama, who has a strained relationship
Romney has sharply criticised Obama's handling of Iran as
not being tough enough.
In excepts of a speech Romney was to deliver on Sunday
evening, the former Massachusetts governor planned to say that
an aggressive approach to Tehran was needed to protect against a
threat to the very existence of Israel, the closest U.S. ally in
the turbulent Middle East.
"When Iran's leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping
this nation off the map, only the naïve - or worse - will
dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric," he will say.
"Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our
moral defences. They want to know who will object, and who will
look the other way."
"My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran
is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my
country," he will say.
(Writing by Steve Holland and Maayan Lubell; Editing by Allyn
Fisher-Ilan and Tim Pearce)