WASHINGTON -- Taking sharply different stands, President Barack Obama urged pressure and diplomacy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized his nation's right to a pre-emptive attack.

Even in proclaiming unity yesterday, the leaders showed no give on competing ways to resolve the crisis.

"I know that both the prime minister and I prefer to resolve this diplomatically," Obama said. "We understand the costs of any military action."

Netanyahu said nothing about sanctions or talks with Iran, or Obama's position that there still is time to try to deter Iran peacefully. Instead, Netanyahu drew attention back to Obama's acknowledgment that Israel is a sovereign land that can protect itself how it sees fit.

"I believe that's why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself," Netanyahu said. "And, after all, that's the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny."

Israel, he added, must remain "the master of its fate."

Across days of comments, speeches and interviews, Obama and Netanyahu left no doubt about where they stand on Iran. Far less clear is whether they have done anything to alter each other's position in what has become a moment of reckoning over Iran, and an important foreign policy issue in the U.S. presidential race.

Obama's aim is to dissuade Israel from launching what he considers to be a premature and dangerous attack on Iran.

The leaders spoke to the media at the start of their meeting, not at the end. That left no opportunity for them to reveal how their discussions went.

Obama often defends his pro-Israel record and sometimes bristles about being questioned about it. He declared his commitment anew with Netanyahu at his side.

"The United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security," he said. Netanyahu took it further.

Both leaders see a nuclear-armed Iran as a nightmare that could threaten Israel's survival and potentially allow terrorists to grab deadly power. Their difference is not over whether force may be needed -- Obama has been specific on his willingness to use it -- but whether the time for such a step is nearing.

Israel fears it may soon lose its window to take out Iran's nuclear facilities; Obama sees a longer period for intervention, based on Iran's current nuclear capability and the toll of growing sanctions. He has put increasing emphasis on the political, economic and potential death toll that could come with opening a new Mideast war.

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