State of the Union address: Barack Obama threatens to veto Iran sanctions

Written by PTI | Washington | Updated: Jan 30 2014, 02:02am hrs
Barack ObamaBarack Obama touched upon various areas of the world, emphasising on key aspects of his foreign policy. Reuters
President Barack Obama in his State of the Union Address today vowed to veto any Congressional bill imposing new sanctions on Iran to give "diplomacy a chance", even as he said the US would remain focused on the vital Asia-Pacific region and shape a future of greater security.

In his sixth annual State of the Union Address to the Congress, Barack Obama touched upon various areas of the world, emphasising on key aspects of his foreign policy. There was no mention of India in his 76-minute prime time speech.

"We will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster, as we did in the Philippines," Barack Obama said.

Observing that in a world of complex threats, US' security and leadership depends on all elements of its power, Barack Obama said American diplomacy has rallied more than fifty countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands and allowed to reduce reliance on Cold War stockpiles.

"American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve, a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear," he said.

Attributing the tough sanctions on Iran for bringing Tehran on the negotiations table, Barack Obama threatened to veto any Congressional bill that imposes new sanctions on Iran as talks of curtailing the latter's nuclear weapons programme continue.

"The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible. But let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed," Barack Obama said.

It is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran's nuclear programme and rolled back parts of it for the very first time in a decade, the US President argued.

Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, he said.

"It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb," Barack Obama said.

On his policy in Afghanistan, Barack Obama said the US may station a small force post-2014 even as America's longest war will come to an end by this year.

"If the Afghan government signs a (bilateral) security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counter-terrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al-Qaeda," Barack Obama said.

"For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not: our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country," he said, noting that after 2014 US will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future.

Talking about boosting the economy, Barack Obama said that 2014 could be a "breakthrough" year for the US and asked the Congress to complete the immigration reform process to boost growth.

The comprehensive immigration reform if passed by the Congress will provide a path to citizenship to some 11 million undocumented people, including 2.4 lakh Indians.

"If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labour leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement, and fix our broken immigration system," Barack Obama said.

"For good reason: when people come here to fulfil their dreams, to study, invent, and contribute to our culture, they make our country a more attractive place for businesses

to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let's get immigration reform done this year," he said, outlining a series of measures to speed up growth and create more jobs.

Seeking to energise his second term, the US President said he will issue an executive order to raise the minimum wage for government contract workers to USD 10.10 an hour, a step which he argued would help reduce poverty in the country.

"In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least USD 10.10 an hour, because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty," Barack Obama said.

He asserted that the country that goes "all-in" on innovation will own the global economy tomorrow.

"We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones," Barack Obama said.