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In Israel, Mitt Romney declares Jerusalem to be capital

By Kasie Hunt

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, July 29 2012 11:15 a.m. MDT

He noted that Egypt is now headed by an "Islamist president, chosen in a Democratic election. ... The international community must use its considerable influence to insure that the new government honors the peace agreement with Israel that was signed by the government of Anwar Sadat" more than three decades ago, he said.

A goal of Romney's overseas trip is to demonstrate his confidence on the world stage, but his stop in Israel also was designed to appeal to evangelical voters at home and to cut into Obama's support among Jewish voters and donors. A Gallup survey of Jewish voters released Friday showed Obama with a 68-25 edge over Romney.

Romney and other Republicans have said Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel, noting statements the president has made about settlements and his handling of evident Iranian attempt to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran is closer to developing nuclear weapons capability than before, Romney said. "Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority."

In a March speech before a pro-Israel lobby in Washington, Obama warned of "loose talk of war" that serves only to drive up oil prices. "Now is not the time to bluster," he said then. "Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and sustain the broad international coalition we have built."

It was unlikely that the day's events would settle the issue.

Obama's former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told ABC's "This Week" that the administration has delayed Iran's nuclear program. The president has imposed U.S. penalties against Iran and worked to tougher strictures applied by other nations. There have been numerous published reports of a coordinated U.S.-Israeli cyberattack that caused damage to Iranian equipment vital to creating weapons-grade nuclear material.

Even so, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the speech that "all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota."

Whatever the reality, the administration has taken steps in recent days to reassure Israel of its support.

Most notably, Obama approved an increase in assistance to strengthen a missile defense system that is designed to protect Israel from rocket attacks launched from the Gaza.

Senor's comments caused a stir in the hours leading to Romney's speech, a reminder of the controversy that Romney had created a few days earlier in London.

He later clarified his comments in a written statement, saying that the candidate "believes we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course and it is his fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded."

Pentagon officials have spoken publicly about the difficulty of such a strike and American officials have expressed concern about the destabilizing effect such military action could have in the region, even if carried out successfully.

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