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    Obama seeks to assure Israelis on Iran

    JERUSALEM — Iran is about a year away from developing a nuclear weapon and the United States remains committed to doing everything in its power to prevent that from happening, President Obama said in an exclusive interview aired Thursday on Israeli TV.

    Just days before he is scheduled to arrive in Israel for his first presidential visit, Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 TV he still prefers diplomacy over force but a nuclear Iran is a ‘‘red line’’ and all options remain to stop it.

    ‘‘Right now, we think it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously we don’t want to cut it too close,’’ said Obama, who will begin a three-day visit Wednesday.


    ‘‘So when I’m consulting with Bibi [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] as I have over the last several years on this issue, my message to him will be the same as before: ‘If we can resolve it diplomatically, that is a more lasting solution. But if not I continue to keep all options on the table,’’’ the president said.

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    The timetable for action against Iran has been one of the most fraught disputes in a sometimes tense relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful and designed to produce energy and medical isotopes.

    In a separate development Thursday, the Pentagon said an Iranian fighter jet approached a US surveillance drone over the Persian Gulf on Tuesday but broke off its pursuit after the pilot of a US escort plane radioed a verbal warning. The Pentagon said the unarmed MQ-1 Predator drone, which was on a routine surveillance mission, as well as two US military escort planes remained over international waters at all times.

    Associated Press