- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2012

Israeli President Shimon Peres railed Sunday against the “evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime” in Iran and pledged that Israel and the United States will stop it from developing nuclear weapons.

Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction. It is an affront to human dignity,” Mr. Peres said, speaking before the annual gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Iran is the center, the sponsor, the financier of world terror. Iran is a danger to the entire world.”

Mr. Peres praised President Obama for rallying international support for sanctions against Iran, which he said seeks to “control the Middle East so it can control a major part of the world economy.”

“President Obama made it clear that the United States of America will not permit Iran to become nuclear,” Mr. Peres said.

“He made it clear that containment is not a viable policy, and as the president stated, all options are on the table.”

“There is no space between us,” Mr. Peres added. “Our message is clear: Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.”

Mr. Peres‘ comments came as President Obama prepared to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday at the White House — amid heightening speculation that Israel will carry out airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities this year.

Mr. Netanyahu is expected to press Mr. Obama for assurances that the U.S. will strike Iran if sanctions fail.

Israeli media reports suggested that Mr. Peres would tell Mr. Obama in their own meeting Sunday that he opposed an Israeli military strike at the moment. But on Sunday at AIPAC, Mr. Peres said Israel was prepared to use force if necessary.

Israel experienced the horror of war. It does not seek it,” he said. “Peace is always our first option, but if we are forced to fight, trust me: we shall prevail.”

In his speech, Mr. Peres recalled his first meeting with Mr. Obama, when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois.

“I saw before me a born leader,” Mr. Peres told the audience. “His care and devotion to Israel’s security was already then evident to me.

“Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound,” he added. “Under your leadership, security cooperation between the USA and Israel has reached its highest level. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a friend in the White House.”

Mr. Obama, who addressed AIPAC after Mr. Peres, returned the praise, calling the Israeli leader “a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might, not the other way around.”

Mr. Obama announced that he would honor Mr. Peres, who at 88 years old has held virtually every major Israeli government post, with the presidential medal of freedom this spring.

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