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Israeli president talks Iran at parliament opening

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's president praised President Barack Obama's approach to countering Iran's suspect nuclear program on Tuesday, while sending a veiled message to Israel's incoming government not to act alone to stop it.

President Shimon Peres spoke at the opening session of Israel's newly elected parliament.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often hinted about a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities to keep it from attaining nuclear weapons. That has put him at odds with Obama and some of his own top security officials. Netanyahu has said Israel cannot rely on others when it comes to protecting its own national security.

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat, citing calls by Iranian leaders for Israel's destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state and its support for militant groups hostile to Israel.

Peres, 89, Israel's elder statesman who serves a mostly ceremonial role as president, echoed concerns posed by a nuclear Iran but maintained that Israel has a friend in the White House who would protect it.

"President Obama was wise enough to establish a wide coalition aided at preventing Iran from going nuclear. This coalition began with diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions and made it clear that it does not rule out other options on the table," he said before parliament. "The United States is the country able to put an end to the Iranian threat, and I believe the president of the United States is determined to do so."

Peres has picked Netanyahu to form a new coalition government following the Jan. 22 election in which his Likud Party lost support but still remained the largest party in the 120-seat parliament. Negotiations to form a new government could take weeks.

Israel's 19th Knesset was sworn in Tuesday. It includes 48 new members and 27 women — the highest female representation ever in Israel's parliament.

The new parliament is expected to focus more than the last one on domestic issues such as the economy, jobs and the country's social problems.

Netanyahu has said Iran tops his top international agenda. He has warned that the world has until this summer at the latest to keep Iran from building a nuclear bomb.

Iran recently announced plans to significantly increase its pace of uranium enrichment, which can make both reactor fuel and the fissile core of warheads. Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes and says it does not seek to build an atomic bomb.

The U.S. and its allies doubt the sincerity of that, but the Obama administration has sought to hold off Israeli military action, which experts say could trigger a region-wide war and result in the U.S. being pulled into another Mideast conflict.

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