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Obama at U.N.: America’s Mideast focus is on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace

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President Obama addresses world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Sept. 24, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

President Obama addressing world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 24, 2013. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama in an address to the United Nations said the U.S. focus in the Middle East will be keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The two issues “have been a major source of instability for far too long,” Obama said Monday at the world body’s General Assembly in New York.

He expressed openness to engaging with Iran in the wake of such calls by its newly elected president, Hassan Rohani, but also emphasized in unusually explicit terms that the United States was ready to use military force to defend its interests and allies in the Middle East.

“The United States of America is willing to use all elements of our power, including the use of military force, to ensure our foreign interests in the region,” he said.

“When it is necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attacks, we will take direct action,” Obama said. “We will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. ”

Obama said Israelis had a right to live peacefully in the region and with the recognition of member U.N. states, including Arab nations, but cautioned that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank was corrosive.

“There’s growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state,” he said.

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