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President Barack Obama addresses Iran, housing, gas in 1st 2012 news conference

March 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
President Barack Obama held his first news conference of the year Tuesday morning, where he focused on a wide range of issues- from Iran's disputed nuclear program to struggling homeowners here in the U.S.

Foreign policy dominated a good portion of the news conference- especially Iran and Israel. The president met With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday. He repeated that the U.S. has an unvarnished commitment to their security.

On the issue of Iran and its potential to develop nuclear weapons he was firm. Obama was clear as he said his policy is not containment- it is not to let Iran have a nuclear weapon. He said at this stage he believed there is a window of opportunity and sanctions are working. However, he was critical of Republican candidates who have indicated they might take military action.

"What's said on the campaign trail and what's reality are so different," said Obama. "These folks don't have a lot of responsibilities. They are not commander in chief. I'm reminded of the costs of sending people into battle."

He said he is focused on "crippling sanctions" already imposed on Iran and on international pressure to keep that nation from developing a nuclear weapon.

Obama also unveiled a $5 to $10 billion housing plan that doesn't require congressional approval. In the plan, borrowers with the Federal Housing Administration would be able to refinance their homes, saving the average homeowner over $1,000 a year. About 2 to 3 million borrowers would be eligible. However the administration hasn't elaborated how many would benefit from the program.

The president also wants to compensate service members and veterans who were wrongfully foreclosed upon or denied lower interest rates. Obama said major lenders will review foreclosures or denials of lower interest rates. If wrongly foreclosed upon, service members will be paid their lost equity and receive additional compensation.

On the topic of rising gas prices throughout the country, Obama said that he was working to expand America's energy base. He also said he has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to look into if the oil markets are driving up the prices. When asked if he wanted the increases- as some GOP critics have suggested- he argued that the rising prices would be a bad idea for anyone running a re-election campaign.

The news conference came as the president's public approval ratings inched up close to 50 percent amid signs that the economy is modestly improving. Aides said the fact that he held it on Super Tuesday is coincidental.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.