July 7, 2009 / 8:48 PM / 10 years ago

Obama: No green light for Israel to attack Iran

WASHINGTON, July 7 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the United States had "absolutely not" given Israel a green light to attack Iran over its nuclear program, but he said Washington cannot "dictate to other countries what their security interests are."

"It is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," Obama told CNN in an interview during his trip to Russia.

Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview with ABC’s "This Week" program on Sunday that Israel had a sovereign right to decide what is in its best interest in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, a comment seen by some as giving Israel a green light to attack.

Asked if that was the intent of his administration, Obama said: "Absolutely not."

"I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact which is we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are," Obama said.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and solve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," he said.

Obama came into office earlier this year hoping to engage Iran in a dialogue to ease tensions between the two longtime rivals, but his efforts have made little progress so far.

The United States views Iran’s nuclear enrichment program as a step toward production of atomic weapons, but Tehran insists it is for peaceful energy production.

Israel has said a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence, noting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

The U.N. Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demand to suspend uranium enrichment.

The United States has joined Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain in inviting Iran to talks to resolve the nuclear dispute.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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