U.S., Israel pledge to deny Iran nuclear weaponry

STORY: U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a joint pledge on Thursday to deny Iran nuclear arms, a show of unity by allies long divided over diplomacy with Tehran.

"Today, you and I also discussed America's commitment to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. This is of vital security to both Israel and the United States, and I would add, for the rest of the world as well. I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome."

The "Jerusalem Declaration" crowning Biden's first visit to Israel as president, came a day after he told a local TV station that he was open to "last resort" use of force against Iran - an apparent move toward accommodating Israel's calls for a "credible military threat" by world powers.

Prime Minister Lapid said words and diplomacy won't stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force."

Iran has denied seeking nuclear arms.

Thursday's statement reaffirmed U.S. support for Israel's regional military edge. There was no immediate comment from Tehran.

In 2015, Iran signed an international deal to cap its nuclear projects with bomb-making potential. In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump quit the pact, deeming it insufficient, a withdrawal welcomed by Israel.

Biden has pushed for a return to talks but said the next move was up to Iran.

"We're waiting for their response. When that recur, when that will come, I'm not certain, but we are not going to wait forever."

Biden will next head to Saudi Arabia for a meeting with Gulf leaders, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - believed by U.S. intelligence to have been involved in the murder of Washington post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Bin Salman denies any involvement in the murder.

Biden, who has faced wide criticism for the move, on Thursday said he would not avoid talking about human rights.

"My views on Khashoggi I may have made, have been absolutely positively clear. And I have never been quiet about talking about human rights."

Biden plans to urge Saudi leaders to produce more oil, in an effort to ease soaring gas prices at home.