NBC's Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd and 'Meet the Press' moderator David Gregory offer election night analysis.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that diplomacy can still resolve the crisis over Iran's possible pursuit of nuclear weapons, and he accused his Republican critics of "beating the drums of war."
"Those folks don't have a lot of responsibilities," Obama said. "They are not commander in chief."
Tension with Iran, and Obama's preference for restraint, dominated his first full news conference of the year, held on the same day that Republican Super Tuesday voting was drawing attention as well.
He said it is his belief that there is still a "window of opportunity" to use diplomacy instead of military force to resolve the dispute the over Iran's nuclear program in the Middle East.
On politics, Obama said that higher gasoline prices as a result of Mideast worries would be a bad idea for any president running for re-election, and he also said he was working to expand America's energy base.
He called violence in Syria "heartbreaking" but showed no willingness for military involvement in that Mideast country.
President Barack Obama says NATO will lay out benchmarks for a "peaceful transition" and that "challenges in that environment" are an indication that "now is the time for us to transition."
Obama said his critics are forgetting the "cost of war" in their rush to punish Iran and defend Israel, which sees a nuclear Iran as a mortal threat in its Mideast neighborhood.
Rhetoric on the right is "more about politics than about trying to solve a difficult problem," Obama said.
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 said his private meetings with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu this week carried the same message as his public pronouncements. And he implied that Israeli pressure for urgent action was not supported by the facts, saying that a decision was not necessary within the next weeks or months.
Siting positive economic news and increased hiring as proof his economic policies are working, President Barack Obama announces a new plan for helping distressed home owners.
In White House talks on Monday, Obama appealed to Netanyahu for more time for international sanctions and diplomacy to work.
Obama has insisted that military options remain on the table if other means fail to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu told Obama that Israel has not made any decision on striking Iran. But Netanyahu also gave no sign of backing away from possible military action.
With a chuckle, President Barack Obama wishes GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney "good luck," impying he's ready for Romney's challenge.
"Historically, we have always cooperated with Israel with respect to the defense of Israel.... We're going to continue that unprecedented security commitment," Obama said.
The president told reporters, "The security of Israel is something I deeply care about."
He added that Iranians need to show how serious they are about resolving the crisis. He said there are steps the Iranians can take "that are verifiable" and will allow it to be "in compliance with international norms and mandates."
Iran said on Tuesday it would let U.N. nuclear inspectors visit a military site where they have been repeatedly refused access to check intelligence suggesting explosives tests relevant to atom bombs has been conducted there.
Diplomats, however, cited a proviso in the Iranian statement saying that access to the Parchin site still hinged on a broader agreement on how to settle outstanding issues which the two sides have been unable to reach for five years.
During President Obama's first news conference of 2012, he answered questions on why he made a phone call to support Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, the role of debate in democracy, and whether or not he agrees with DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz about the GOP waging "war against women."
An International Atomic Energy Agency report in November said that Iran had built a large containment chamber at Parchin, southeast of Tehran, to conduct high-explosives experiments that are "strong indicators" of an effort to design atomic bombs.
Years of tortuous negotiations have often come unstuck over procedural obstacles imposed by Iran since the IAEA first began seeking unfettered access in the country almost a decade ago to check indications of illicit military nuclear activity.
Israel has mooted pre-emptive bombings against Iran, a hawkish approach that Obama - wary of the risk of igniting a new Middle East war and a global surge in oil prices as he seeks re-election in November - has tried to restrain to give time for harsher sanctions and diplomatic pressure to bear fruit.
Israel insists that military action against Iran would be warranted to prevent it from attaining the capability of making nuclear weapons, as opposed to when it actually builds a device. Washington has not embraced that idea.
"The pressure (on Iran) is growing but time is growing short," Netanyahu was quoted by aides as telling Obama.
Later, addressing the influential pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, Netanyahu said: "None of us can afford to wait much longer. As prime minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation."
U.S. officials say that while Iran may be maneuvering to keep its options open, there is no clear intelligence that it has made a final decision to "break out" with a nuclear warhead.
Obama addresses gasoline prices
On gas prices on Tuesday, Obama dismissed as laughable the suggestion by some Republican critics that he actually wants increases.
He said no president facing re-election would want to see gas prices rise because of the hardship that would cause to American families, and that he's asking his attorney general to examine whether speculation in the oil markets is driving up oil prices.
In the past month, gasoline prices have risen by more than 28 cents per gallon, making gasoline the most expensive ever for this time of year. On Tuesday, the nationwide average for regular unleaded slipped less than a penny to $3.764 per gallon, ending a string of price increases that began on Feb. 8.
Obama on women speaking out
Obama said he telephoned Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, who was labeled a "slut" by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh last week, because he doesn't want people who speak their minds about policy issues to be discouraged or attacked.
Asked to comment on Limbaugh's apology, Obama says he doesn't know "what's in Rush Limbaugh's heart."
Obama said the incident made him think of his two daughters and his hopes that they can engage in issues they care about in the future. He said he doesn't want his daughters "attacked or called horrible names" for speaking their minds and being good citizens.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News