JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney would “respect” Israel’s use of military force to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, a senior aide said on Sunday as the Republican presidential candidate began his visit to Jerusalem.
“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Romney’s senior national security aide Dan Senor told reporters traveling with the candidate.
While stopping short of endorsing a preemptive military attack, the comment seemed to differ with President Barack Obama’s attempts to convince Israel to avoid any such move.
Gov. Romney’s first meeting was Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who greeted him as a “personal friend and friend of Israel.”
Shaking hands underneath U.S. and Israel flags, the pair signaled that Iran would be top of the agenda in their discussions.
Netanyahu said: ”We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that’s why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation.”
Later, Gov. Romney and his wife Ann visited the city’s Western Wall.
Sunday’s comments came as a senior Israeli official denied a newspaper report that President Barack Obama’s national security adviser had briefed Netanyahu on a U.S. contingency plan to attack Iran should diplomacy fail to curb its nuclear program.
The Israeli liberal Haaretz daily on Sunday quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying the adviser, Thomas Donilon, had described the plan over dinner with Netanyahu earlier this month.
“Nothing in the article is correct. Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran,” the senior official, who declined to be named given the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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