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In State of the Union, Obama pledges veto of any new sanctions legislation

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama in his State of the Union speech pledged to veto any new Iran sanctions.

“Let me be clear: If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it,” he said Tuesday night. “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”

The Senate is considering new sanctions, backed by leading pro-Israel groups.

“With our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, drawing some of the louder applause of the evening.

In a statement after Obama’s speech, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) called on the Senate to pass a sanctions bill that he and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced. The measure now has the backing of 59 senators.

“The American people — Democrats and Republicans alike — overwhelmingly want Iran held accountable during any negotiations,” he said.

In his State of the Union, Obama also nodded to efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and pledged support for Israel’s security in the process.

He pointedly referred to Israel’s status as a Jewish state, a recognition Israel wants from the Palestinians as part of a peace deal.

“American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians; and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side,” he said.

More broadly, Obama said, as he launched his final three years in office, he wanted to wean America from a “permanent war footing” and reduce the U.S. troop presence abroad.

“We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us — large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism,” he said.

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